Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Jung on Symbols and the Self

In this post I examine some themes relating to symbols and the self as they appear in Jung's Red Book and Psychological Types.

For Jung, “symbols” rather than “facts” or “ideas” are the royal road to both psychological insight and wisdom. In the Red Book we learn, “there are not many truths, there are only a few. Their meaning is too deep to grasp other than in symbols” (291). Indeed, one of Jung’s greatest contributions to the intellectual dialog of the 20th century was to re-elevate the symbol, as a vehicle for knowledge, insight and personal transformation. “The ancients lived their symbols, since the world had not yet become real for them” (236). However, in an age where the world has become all too real, in the sense that reality is defined by science and reason, we are in danger of losing our connection to symbolic meaning, and this, for Jung, amounts a loss of meaning altogether. Symbols, for Jung, are pregnant with latent meaning. “The mouth utters the word, the sign, and symbol. If the word is a sign, it means nothing. But if the word is a symbol it means everything” (310).

In Psychological Types, Jung explains that symbols (in contrast to signs) are the best possible expression “of a relatively unknown thing, which…cannot be more clearly or characteristically represented” (Psych Types par 815). For Jung, a symbol cannot be created through conscious mentation, but must always be created through unconscious activity, an activity that has both rational and irrational elements (Psych Types, par 822). Jung called the psychic function that produces symbols, the “transcendent function” (par. 828). In the Red Book Jung describes how “the symbol can be neither thought up nor found: it becomes. Its becoming is like the becoming of human life in the womb” (311).

As we have seen, Jung holds that symbols are the means through which the psyche reconciles or unites opposites. For Jung, “The raw material shaped by thesis and antithesis, and in the shaping of which the opposites are united, is the living symbol” (Psych Types, par. 827). In this Jung is later echoed by the French structural anthropologist Levi Strauss, who held that myths reconcile contradictions within a culture that cannot be reconciled through reason. By holding that opposites can only be reconciled via symbols, Jung consciously opposed himself to Hegel, who had held that contradictions could be overcome through dialectical reason.

In the Red Book Jung says, “good and bad must always be united if the symbol is to be created” (236), and in Psychological Types he explains that a symbol is “born of man’s highest spiritual aspirations,” and “from the deepest roots of his being…from the lowest and most primitive levels of the psyche” (Psych Types, par. 823). If we reflect upon these ideas for a moment we realize that the contradictions that symbols reconcile must always involve a conflict between good and bad, civilized and primitive, or at least between “accepted” and “rejected,” otherwise there would be little need for their reconciliation. In Psychological Types Jung describes how the symbols of the great religions reconcile spirituality with sensuality (par. 825). One need think no further than symbol of communion, whereby the Catholic initiate consumes the body and blood of Christ, or the symbols of Jewish ritual whereby blessings are recited over sensual pursuits such as eating, drinking, and copulation.

Jung makes the bold claim that “symbols” provide one with “inner freedom.” In the Red Book he states, “Our freedom does not lie outside us, but within us…One can certainly gain outer freedom through powerful actions, but one creates inner freedom only through the symbol” (311). How can we understand this claim. First, we should note that Jung relates how “in the symbol there is the release of the bound human force struggling with darkness” (310-311). Presumably the symbol, by reconciling good and evil enables one to integrate the dark aspects of self and the world and frees one from the grip of one’s shadow. Further, by reconciling conflicts that would otherwise produce depression, anxiety or other psychological symptoms, the symbols created by the transcendent function free us from our neurotic misery. Amongst the symbols discussed by Jung, those pointing to the “self” are paramount. To take just a few examples, for Jung, the Kabbalists' Primordial Man, alchemist’s philosopher’s stone, Hindu and Buddhist (as well as Jung's own) mandalas, Jesus, Buddha and God Himself are all symbols of the union of opposites that constitutes the Self. Indeed, like its symbols, the Self points to something that is familiar yet (because it is largely constituted by the unconscious) very imperfectly known. Indeed, the archetype of the Self provides the reconciliation between freedom and determinism that has, at least since the time of Kant, eluded the philosophers. Without being able to specify how this is the case, we can all recognize that the Self is both determined by our heredity, history and environment, and the source of our free will. This is an interesting example of how a symbol expresses a meaning and reconciles apparent contradictions, albeit in an imperfect and unclear manner.

In this context it is interesting to note that for Jung, science also operates with symbols: “Since every scientific theory contains a hypothesis, and is therefore an anticipatory description of something still essentially unknown, it is a symbol” (Psych Types par. 816). I think I understand what Jung is driving at here—but I don’t think it’s quite accurate to associate the unknown with specific hypotheses. Rather scientific theories contain concepts (e.g. gravitation, the atom, space, matter, time) whose meanings are anticipatory, inasmuch as they far exceed what is known in their current formulation. The problem with regarding scientific concepts as symbols, however, is that according to Jung symbols are never purely cognitive or rational. Indeed, for Jung, the symbol “is an astonishing and perhaps seemingly irrational word, but one recognizes it as a symbol since it is alien to the conscious mind” (311).

Now the “Self” is, according to Jung an archetypal idea or symbol, but it might also be thought of as a concept, one that has differing nuances depending upon the context within which it appears; think of the different but overlapping ways that “self” is understood in everyday parlance, in self-psychology, as part of the construct of self-esteem, and in Jungian psychology. However, it would seem that for Jung, the self as a symbol cannot be turned into a rational or scientific concept without loss of meaning. Jung comments that symbols die once they are provided with a rational interpretation:

“So long as a symbol is a living thing, it is an expression for something that cannot be characterized in any other or better way. The symbol is alive only so long as it is pregnant with meaning. But once its meaning has been born out of it, once that expression is found that formulates the thing sought, expected, or divined even better than the hitherto accepted symbol, then the symbol is dead, i.e. it possesses only a historical significance” (Psych. Types par. 816).

This is the sort of thing that Nietzsche had in mind when he proclaimed the death of God. In the Red Book Jung suggests that science, presumably by explaining clearly and rationally so many things that God had hitherto been invoked to explain, had killed the gods, or at least made them mortally ill. On Jung’s account, the symbol of God was no longer pregnant with meaning, and in need of a new influx of mystery; something he sought to provide through his notions of fantasy, the archetypes, and the collective unconscious.

We might ask whether the symbol of the Self, is itself threatened with death, e.g. by biological or cognitive science, and in what human “self-understanding” would consist if the very symbol/concept of the Self was no longer viable or interesting. This is not a result that Jung found particularly palatable. The editors of the Red Book point out that in a letter to Hans Scmid, written on November 6, 1915, Jung wrote:

“the core of the individual is a mystery of life, which dies when it is grasped…That is why, in the later stages of analysis, we must help the other to come to those hidden and un-openable symbols, in which the seed of life lies securely hidden like the tender seed in the hard shell. If a symbol is understood it is ripe for destruction because it has outgrown its shell. Salvation is given to us in the un-openable and unsayable symbol for it protects us by preventing the devil from swallowing the seed of life” (n. 337).

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Jung on Knowledge, Intuition and Belief

Jung does not offer a formal and systematic theory of knowledge in the Red Book, but throughout this work he turns traditional epistemology on its head: placing his weight on the side of the imaginary as opposed to the real, the irrational as opposed to the rational, madness as opposed to sanity, and myth as opposed to science. We might say that Jung's view is not unlike the one that Jacques Derrida would develop 60 years later: that of redressing the imbalance resulting from the tradition’s “privileging” of certain critical ideas over their opposites.

In the Red Book, Jung is adamant that true knowledge must spring from a total engagement with life: “Scholarliness alone is not enough, there is a knowledge of the heart that gives deeper insight…You can attain this knowledge (of the heart) only by living your life to the full”(233)

Later in the Red Book, Jung has what he describes as a trite visionary encounter with an old man’s daughter, and asks for thoughts regarding “so-called ultimate truths.” Jung suggests that these truths “must be quite uncommon” to which she responds:

“The more uncommon these highest truths are, the more inhuman must they be and the less they speak to you as something valuable or meaningful concerning human essence and being. Only what is human and what you call banal and hackneyed contains the wisdom that you seek” (262).

On the other hand, truth and knowledge paradoxically spring from conditions that are opposite from those we might expect: from depression, unlearning and lack of intention. Jung tells us:

“…we do not love the condition of our being brought low, although or rather precisely because only there do we attain clear knowledge of ourselves” (263).

Here Jung places himself squarely within an existential tradition which holds that knowledge of self arises through an encounter with one’s demonic or shadow self. Such knowledge is opposed to the “knowledge” that one learns from science, books and traditional models of learning. One of Jung’s inner figures, the Anchorite states: “I’ve spent many years alone with the process of unlearning. Have you ever unlearned anything” (269).

Knowledge is not something that one can intentionally seek or derive. Jung asks, “Do you still know that the way to truth stands open only to those without intentions?” (236).

This, of course, accords with Jung’s conception that “archetypal” knowledge arises spontaneously from the collective unconscious and can never be arrived at through the conscious workings of the ego.

In the Red Book, Jung suggests that intuitive knowledge (at least, his own intuitive knowledge) is superior to argument and reason. As we have seen when we considered Jung’s assertion that “Through uniting with the self we reach God,” Jung claimed that this realization was neither wished for nor expected, that indeed he consciously wished he could disown it as a deception, but that it “seized [him] beyond all measure, and that in spite of the fact that it left him bitter he was certain of its truth (338). Jung remarks, “No insight or objection …could surpass the strength of this experience,” and while Jung claimed that he himself could explain the experience away in terms that would “join it to the already known,” this “would be unable to remove even the smallest part of the knowledge…” (338)

Jung’s inner guide, Philemon, is also certain of his intuitions but perhaps not quite as certain as Jung himself. Philemon avers: “I do not know whether it is the best that one can know. But I know nothing better and therefore I am certain these things are as I say. If they were otherwise I would say something else, since I would know them to be otherwise. But these things are as I know them since my knowledge is precisely these things themselves” (349).

Neither Jung, nor Philemon, consider the possibility that their intuitions might simply be mistaken; this despite the fact that in other places in the Red Book, Jung holds that one who becomes enslaved to thinking vs. feeling or vice versa, ends up in error (247), that our concepts, unlike existing things, can yield and be in error (333), that (according to Philemon) “the overpowering essence of events in the universe and in the hearts of men,” (i.e. God), is no law, but “chance, irregularity, sin, error, stupidity {and] carelessness, (300), and that “yes and no are both true and untrue” (333).

Throughout his career Jung waivered between two conceptions of knowledge, a Platonic one, in which one can achieve certainty through an intuition of essences (i.e. the archetypes), and a dialectical or postmodern one, in which all so-called truths must be complemented by their opposites and in which so-called "knowledge" is always colored by the “personal equation” (or psychology) of the knower. This tension, already evident in the Red Book, was, I believe, never fullyresolved or even adequately recognized by Jung. Perhaps there is a coincidentia oppositorum between Jungian certainty and Jungian open-mindedness, but it is not one that is readily apparent from a reading of Jung himself.

Perhaps Jung’s Red Book comments on the subject of “belief” can put us on the road towards a resolution, or at least better understanding of this problem. On the one hand, Jung tells us:

The dead rejected Christian belief “Because the world, without these men knowing it, entered into that month of the great year where one should believe only what one knows” (349),


“The childishness of belief breaks down in the face of our present necessities” (336),


“…I believe that it is better in our time that belief is weak. We have outgrown that childhood where mere belief was the most suitable means to bring men to what is good and reasonable. Therefore if we wanted to have a strong belief again today, we would thus return to that earlier childhood. But we have so much knowledge and such a thirst for knowledge in us that we need knowledge more than belief. But the strength of belief would hinder us from attaining knowledge. Belief certainly may be something strong, but it is empty and too little of the whole man can be involved, if our life with God is grounded only on belief” (335).


“Desiring knowledge sometimes takes away too much belief. Both must strike a balance” (336).

Friday, December 18, 2009

Jung on Madness

Jung’s views on madness are in many ways commensurate with his Red Book perspective on chaos, science and reason. Early in Liber Primus he tells his readers: “It is unquestionable: if you enter into the world of the soul, you are like a madman, and a doctor would consider you to be sick.” (238)

Jung links himself to a tradition which regards certain forms of madness as a divine visitation:

“But know that there is a divine madness which is nothing other than the overpowering of the spirit of this time through the spirit of the depths” (238). Jung’s idea here is that it is only by challenging what the mentality of a certain era regards as reasonable, comprehensible and true that one gains access to one’s soul and an intuition of God. If we are to reach the divine the reality of the “ruling discourse” must be overpowered by a reality that initially appears to be fantastic, mad and non-sensical. As we have seen, in the Red Book, Jung equates this divine reality with chaos, the irrational, life, and the imagination. Jung himself finds these ideas difficult, at one point in the Red Book he states, “I don’t want to be divine but reasonable. The divine appears to me to be irrational craziness” (291).

Part of the difficulty with divine madness is that it contrasts markedly with the profound tranquility that is typically associated with an experience of God. Indeed Jung himself states:

“Every man has a quiet place in his soul, where everything is self-evident and easily explainable, a place where he likes to retire from the confusing possibilities of life, because there everything is simple and clear, with a manifest and limited purpose” (295).

One might suppose that it is this “quiet place” that is the goal of spiritual practice, the “truth” or “divine soul” that one encounters, for example, through meditation. Yet as we have seen for Jung such quietude is the opposite of the “chaos” that he sees as the vehicle to creative fantasy and the soul’s depths. Jung tells us that if the walls of a man’s quiet place are broken “the overwhelming stream of chaos will flood in (296), and… “If one opens up chaos, magic also arises” (314). For Jung, the divine madness that proceeds out of chaos is “a higher form of irrationality of the life streaming through us –at any rate a madness that cannot be integrated into present-day society…” (295). Jung’s views on madness are premonitory of the postmodern rejection of “reality” as it is defined by the discourse and practice.

One might say that in his conception of madness Jung has taken Freud’s “fundamental rule” of free-association and brought it beyond the analytic session into life itself In the Red Book, Jung’s soul tells him, “You wanted to accept everything. So accept madness too. Let the light of your madness shine and it will suddenly dawn on you. Madness is not to be despised and not to be feared, but instead you should give it life” (298)

For Jung:

“Madness is a special form of the spirit and clings to all teachings and philosophies, but even more to daily life, since life itself is full of craziness and at bottom utterly illogical.” Man strives toward reason only so that he can make rules for himself. Life itself has no rules. That is its mystery and its unknown law. What you call knowledge is an attempt to impose something comprehensible on life.”

Yet Jung does not rest with a “madness” that remains unorganized and chaotic. At the close of the Red Book Jung writes that he was indeed struggling with madness during the period of its composition: “To the superficial observer, it will appear like madness. It would also have developed into one, had I not been able to absorb the overpowering force of the original experience. With the help of alchemy, I could finally arrange them into a whole” (360).

Thus for Jung, at least after his encounter with alchemy, madness and chaos become one pole of a process that is complemented by wholeness and comprehension. In alchemical terms solve is complemented by coagulum. In Kabbalistic terms, the Shevirah, the “breaking of the vessels” in which the order of self and God is broken apart and the original chaos of creation makes a (re)appearance, is followed by Tikkun, the restorative process, in which self and world are reorganized into a (divine) whole.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Jung's Red Book: The Critique of Reason

In the Red Book Jung is not content to turn his critical gaze only upon science, but is also highly critical of reason and morality. In this post, I will briefly examine his critique of reason. According to Jung:

“The ancients called the saving word the Logos, an expression of divine reason. So much unreason was in man that he needed reason to be saved. [but] in the end [the Logos] poisons us all…We spread poison and paralysis around us in that we want to educate all the world around us into reason” (280).

For Jung, reason is not only present in thinking, but in feeling as well (we are probably all familiar with relations or acquaintances whose emotions are always “reasonable” and “appropriate”). However, both those who are always intellectually and emotionally rational are, according to Jung secretly “worshippers of the servant,” as for Jung reason should always simply be a servant to other ends.

Jung is skeptical even regarding reason’s ability to provide a basis for knowledge:

“Whenever I want to learn and understand something I leave my so-called reason at home and give whatever it is that I am trying to understand the benefit of the doubt. I have learned this gradually, because nowadays the world of science is full of scary examples of the opposite” (313).

Jung observes “that the world comprises reason and unreason,” adding, “and we also understood that our way needs not only reason but unreason.

In Psychological Types (p. 454, par. 773) Jung clarifies that he uses the term “irrational” “not to denote something contrary to reason, but something beyond reason, something, therefore, not grounded on reason.” This, he informs us, includes “elementary facts,” for example, “That the earth has a moon, that chlorine is an element, that water reaches its greatest density at forty degrees centigrade.” Chance, and the accidental features of objects and events also included under the heading of the “irrational.” Yet in the Red Book, he acknowledges that certain things that are beyond reason today may not be so tomorrow: “One can be certain that the greater part of the world eludes our understanding…a part of the incomprehensible, however, is only presently incomprehensible and might already concur with reason tomorrow.” This, however, may not be possible, for example, for the objects of religious experience. Jung tells us that it “quite easy for our reason to deny the God and speak only of sickness,” yet “the fiery brilliance of the God [is] a higher and fuller life than the ashes of rationality” (339).

Jung’s difficulty with reason is in part rotted with his view that it is associated with only two of what he considered to be the four psychic functions. As we have seen according to Jung reason is associated with thinking and feeling, which are regarded to be the rational functions. Sensing and intuition, in Jung’s typology are the “irrational” functions, largely because unlike thinking and feeling they are grounded in perception rather than judgment. Jung held the symbol in such high regard because he saw it as a product of all four psychic functions. In Psychological Types he says of the symbol:

“It certainly has a side that accords with reason, but it has another side that does not; for it is composed not only of rational but also irrational data supplied by pure inner and outer perception” (Psych. Types, par. 822).

One might readily suppose that for Jung (and indeed as we have seen his says this himself), the irrationality of the symbol, and the irrational in general is not a function that runs contrary to reason or science (after all sensation and intuition are all part of the rational scientific process), but there are places where Jung suggests that the irrational is pre-rational, illogical and associated with madness. In Psychological Types he says that a symbol must both be born of “man’s highest spiritual aspirations,” and “spring from the deepest roots of his being,” and it therefore “must derive equally from the lowest and most primitive levels of the psyche” (ibid.). In the Red Book, Jung extols the value of madness, which he says is a “special form of the spirit and clings to all teachings and philosophies, but even more to daily life, since life itself is full of craziness and at bottom utterly illogical” (298). One who refuses to enter into the irrational, illogical world of madness has, for Jung, failed to comprehend the full nature of the psyche and moreover has remained outside of life itself.

There is, from Jung’s perspective, yet another problem with reason. According to Jung, “the laws of reason are the laws that designate and govern the average, “correct,” adapted attitude…Everything is “rational” that accords with these laws, everything that contravenes them is “irrational.” Since, as we have seen, Jung regards “creative fantasy” to be the road to the soul, it follows that reason can never bring us to the soul, because reason, by itself, can never contravene what later thinkers came to refer to as the “ruling discourse.” (Interestingly, Jung’s “irrational” plays a similar role in his thinking that the “real” would later play in the thought of Lacan, and the “monstrous” in Derrida.)

Jung’s celebration of the irrational appears to have figured into his early enthusiasm for the National Socialism. At the Tavistock Clinic in London in 1935 Jung described how Naziism not only had a hypnotic effect upon the German people, but even, when he was in Germany, upon Jung himself:

“Would you have believed that a whole nation of highly intelligent and cultivated people could be seized by the fascinating power of an archetype? I saw it coming, and I can understand it because I know the power of the collective unconscious. But on the surface it looks simply incredible. Even my personal friends are under that fascination, and when I am in Germany, I believe it myself, I understand it all, I know it has to be as it is. One cannot resist it. It gets you below the belt and not in your mind, your brain just counts for nothing, your sympathetic system is gripped. It is a power that fascinates people from within, it is the collective unconscious which is activated…We cannot be children about it, having intellectual and reasonable ideas and saying: this should not be…An incomprehensible fate has seized them, and you cannot say it is right, or it is wrong. It has nothing to do with rational judgment, it is just history.” (C. G. Jung. The Tavistock lectures: on the theory and practice of analytical psychology. Lecture V. In: Jung, C., Collected Works of C. G. Jung, Vol. 18. Princeton University Press, 1976. (p. 135-182), p. 164.)

Jung, as it turned out, for a time expressed optimism regarding the Nazi state even when he was not in Germany, though after the war he would say that he could not bring himself to believe that a civilized European state could act so irrationally:

“When Hitler seized power it became quite evident to me that a mass psychosis was boiling up in Germany. But I could not help telling myself that this was after all Germany, a civilized European nation with a sense of morality and discipline” (“Epilogue to ‘Essays on Contemporary Events,’” CW 10, p. 236).

As I argue in my book, Kabbalistic Metaphors: C. G. Jung and Jewish Mysticism, Jung’s optimism regarding the Nazis and Hitler raises serious questions about any psychology, philosophy or theology that fails to place reason above the other psychic functions. While in the Red Book Jung is adamant that reason cannot dominate the psyche or our understanding of it, later, in reflecting upon the irrational psychic forces that on his view produced the events that occurred in Nazi Germany he came close to abandoning this view:

“As a psychiatrist, accustomed to dealing with patients who are in danger of being overwhelmed by unconscious contents, I knew that it is of utmost importance, from the therapeutic point of view, to strengthen as far as possible their conscious position and powers of understanding so that there is something there to intercept and integrate the contents that are breaking through to consciousness.” (“Epilogue to ‘Essays on Contemporary Events,’” CW 10, p. 236).

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Jung 's Critique of Science

In the Red Book, Jung expresses a disdain for science, a disdain that is simply not evident in his Collected Works, where he tends to describe himself as a physician who has nothing but respect for empirical scientific methods. Reading Jung’s Collected Works may lead one to conclude that his method is more phenomenological or hermeneutic than natural-scientific, but it is only in the Red Book that science is placed under direct attack. Recall that in the Red Book it is science with its “awful magic” that has poisoned and lamed the god Izdubar (279), a god who wonders how it could be that Jung is “still alive even though [he] drink[s] from this poison every day.”

Jung is clear that for him, science is a (perhaps necessary) evil. He says to the ailing Izdubar:

“We had to swallow the poison of science. Otherwise we would have met the same fate as you have: we’d be completely lamed, if we encountered it unsuspecting and unprepared. This poison is so insurmountably strong that everyone even the strongest, and even the eternal Gods, perish because of it. If our life is dear to us, we prefer to sacrifice a piece of our life force rather than abandon ourselves to certain death” (279).

It is unclear at this point in the Red Book Jung whether Jung is even of the view that science has in some ways preserved and enhanced human life; Jung seems to hold here that one accepts science to avert total disaster, but in the process one’s life is robbed of at least some of its spirit and meaning. The effects of science are insidious as it causes men to be lamed, poisoned, and lacking without their even being aware of its ill effects (283).

Jung voices a somewhat more generous view of science, later in the Red Book, when he encounters a “librarian” (another one of his inner figures) from whom he wants a copy of Thomas a Kempis’, The Imitation of Christ, a 15th c. book of devotional piety and instruction. Jung says to the librarian, “You know that I value science extraordinarily highly. But there are actually moments in life where science also leaves us empty and sick. In such moments a book like Thomas’ means very much to me since it was written from the soul” (292).

Indeed, Jung takes up the subject of science in a conversation he has with his own soul. Jung says to his soul: “there are people who live without science. But to overcome science for the sake of magic? That’s uncanny and menacing” (308). Later his soul responds: “You should become serious and hence take your leave from science. There is too much childishness in it. Your way goes toward the depths. Science is too superficial, mere language, mere tools. But you must set to work” (336). Ironically, given the charges by Karl Popper and others, that Freudian psychoanalysis is non-scientific, the “science” that Jung most immediately “takes leave of” in the Red Book, is Freud’s.

What is the “way that goes to the depths,” if it is not science? Jung’s answer, one that is implicit in the Red Book and explicit in Psychological Types, is that fantasy as opposed to reason is the road to the depths of the psyche. Indeed, the Red Book, is built around what Jung would later call “active imagination,” and in Psychological Types, which as we have seen was written during a hiatus in Jung’s work on the Red Book, Jung argues that creative fantasy is the bridge that unites thinking and feeling, and thus the bridge that unites the science of psychology with a psychology of human experience (Psych. Types, par. 84) and, as Jung puts it, "the springs of life" (Psych. Types, par. 86). According to Jung, "every creative individual whatsoever owes all that is greatest in his life to fantasy" (Psych. Types, par. 93).

Jung holds that if psychology is to be a science it must exclude the perspective of both feeling and fantasy. This is because, by definition, science is an “affair of the intellect” (Psych. Types. par. 84). However, in excluding feeling and fantasy, a scientific psychology functions from a standpoint that cannot do full justice to its subject matter; indeed any science of psychology would itself be directed by feeling and creative fantasy in its practical application, i.e. when it is “placed at the service of a creative power and purpose” (par. 84). Jung sees “fantasy” as fulfilling the role of the “higher third” that unites the opposing principles of intellect and feeling, and which thereby brings psychology to life. Although Jung does not make this explicit, either in the Red Book or Psychological Types, he is of the view that creative fantasy, as opposed, for example, to tradition or science itself, is what does and should provide psychology with its guiding values. Indeed, much of the Red Book can be understood as a sustained effort to arrive at such values through Jung’s own creative and imaginative process. Of course, for Jung, such values, are often opposed to those of traditional morality.

For Jung, acts of creative fantasy are exemplars of human freedom, a freedom that is, by definition, excluded by the very nature of the empirical scientific attitude (Psych. Types, par. 532). Reading Jung’s disdain for science in the Red Book through the lens of his comments in Psychological Types, we arrive at the view that a scientific psychology has value but is woefully incomplete, as it can neither provide an account of nor impetus to the acts of creative, imaginative freedom that lend meaning both to life and to science itself; the pretense that it can provide such meaning is the source of its "poison."

These ideas are given further expression in Jung’s “Commentary on the Secret of the Golden Flower,” which was written in 1929, at the time when, by Jung’s own account, had just abandoned work on the Red Book. In this commentary on an ancient Chinese text Jung is far more charitable to science than he is in the Red Book, but continues to cognizant of its limitations:

“Science is not, indeed, a perfect instrument, but it is a superior and indispensable one that works harm only when taken as an end in itself…Science is the tool of the Western mind and with it more doors can be opened than with bare hands. It is part and parcel of our knowledge and obscures insight only when it holds that the understanding given by it is the only kind there is.”

Jung continues that “the East has taught us another, wider, more profound, and higher understanding, that is, understanding through life” (p. 82). Such an understanding, Jung informs us, is higher because it is not limited to a single psychic function, the intellect, but includes feeling and intuition as well (85). On the other hand, if the great scientific advances of the west were to complemented by a full appreciation of these other psychic functions, “the West might expect to surpass the East by a very great margin” (85).

Jung’s views lead to a very broad definition of psychology, which would include empirical science as just one of (and indeed not the highest of) its components. Within such a definition, philosophers, mystics, writers of fiction and artists of all types, would be regarded as potentially making significant contributions to psychology, and, indeed, even the most cursory reading of Jung’s own writings, reveals this to be view Jung's point of view. In an essay first published in 1954 Jung reflected upon his own career as an empirical scientist:

"I fancied I was working along the best scientific lines, establishing facts, observing, clasifying, describing causal and functional relations, only to discover in the end that I had involved myself in a net of reflections which extend far beyond natural science and ramify into the fields of philosophy, theology, comparative religion, and the humane sciences in general" ("On the Psyche," par. 421).

Interestingly, a similar view was early on expressed by Freud, who observed that his own case studies necessarily read like works of imaginative literature:

“It still strikes me myself as strange that the case histories I write should read like short stories and that, as one might say, they lack the serious stamp of science. I must console myself with the reflection that the nature of the subject is evidently responsible for this, rather than any preference of my own. The fact is that local diagnosis and electrical reactions lead nowhere in the study of hysteria, whereas a detailed description of mental processes such as we are accustomed to find in the works of imaginative writers enables me, with the use of a few psychological formulas, to obtain at least some kind of insight into the course of that affection” (S. Freud, SE Vol. II, pp. 160-1).

Our own time has witnessed a progressive narrowing of the psychological gaze so as to exclude philosophy, literature, mysticism, art and theology on the grounds that these are marginal to psychology’s goal of creating a science of human cognition and behavior. In the process, Jungians, Freudians, and others who refuse to swallow what Jung described as the “poison” of a scientistic psychology have been marginalized, if not completely excluded from the field.

One final thought: We might ask if Jung is not too quick to turn in the Red Book and Psychological Types to creative imagination as the only vehicle to a psychology that is true to life and the soul. Might there not be wider, indeed non-natrural scientific, modes of reason that can contribute to such a psychology as well (history, philosophy and anthropology are disciplines that immediately come to mind). More on this when we discuss Jung's critique of reason.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Jung on Chaos

“Chaos,” in the sense of a disorganized and disorganizing confrontation with the unconscious, plays an important role in the Red Book, as it does in Jung’s later work. Perhaps inspired by Nietzsche’s aphorism in Zarathustra that “one must have chaos if one is to give birth to a dancing star,” Jung determined to welcome chaos as the vehicle through which he would encounter his own soul. “There in the world of chaos,” Jung writes, “dwells eternal wonder….Man belongs not only to an ordered world, he also belongs to the wonder-world of his soul. Consequently you must make your ordered world horrible…” (264). As the Red Book progresses Jung speaks of his own descent into chaos:

“Everything inside me is in utter disarray. Matters are becoming serious, and chaos is approaching. Is this the ultimate bottom? Is chaos also a foundation? If only there weren’t these terrible waves. Everything breaks asunder like black billows” (298).

The descent into chaos is perilous, but it also yields great rewards: “If one opens up chaos, magic also arises” (314). Psychic chaos is beyond logic, reason, expectation and control:

“If one has done one’s best to steer the chariot, and then notices that a greater other is actually steering it, then magical operation takes place. One cannot say what the effect of magic will be, since no one can know in advance because the magical is lawless, which occurs without rules and by chance so to speak” (314).

The “greater other” Jung speaks of, might be regarded as equivalent to the gods, the archetypes, the collective unconscious, and especially the “Self” that Jung would later contrast with conscious, rational ego.

Jung’s guide, Philemon teaches that “the chaos…is without measure and utterly boundless, to which justice and injustice, leniency and severity, patience and anger, love and hate, are nothing” (350). Chaos, to use Nietzsche’s phrase, is “beyond good and evil,” yet in spite, or even because of this, it enters into the essence of the divine: “The one eye of the Godhead is blind, the one ear of the Godhead is deaf, the order of its being is crossed by chaos” (231).

According to Jung, “one can teach the way that leads to chaos,” (314) even if one must be silent about the magic that can ensue from an encounter with it. Perhaps this is because such magic is non-rational, spontaneous and intrinsically novel, and therefore different for each individual who experiences it.

With his encounter with eastern alchemy, beginning with “The Secret of the Golden Flower” in 1929, and then European alchemy in the 1930s, Jung found a tradition that provided warrant for his view that an encounter with chaos is instrumental to the development and individuation of the psyche. Jung viewed the alchemist’s efforts to create gold as a symbol of their quest to transform the adept’s soul, and he saw the alchemist’s equivalence of their prima materia with “chaos” as verification of his view that such chaos is the raw ingredient of psychological transformation. The European alchemists identified this chaos with the "chaotic waters" which served as the raw material for creation (Mysterium Coniunctionis, 156, 197), prior to the separation of the opposites symbolized by the "firmament." Jung understood the alchemists to hold that all material transformation and psychic healing arises through chaos, quoting the alchemist Dorn regarding the disintegrating, yet reintegrative effects of the chaos:

Man is placed by God in the furnace of tribulation, and like the hermetic compound he is troubled at length with all kinds of straits, divers calamities, anxieties, until he die to the old Adam and the flesh and rise again as in truth a new man (quoted in Mysterium Coniunctionis, 353, n. 70). For Jung, the psychological meaning of such “transformation by chaos” is a confrontation with one's personal, and moreover, the collective unconscious. Jung writes:

"The meeting between the narrowly delimited, but intensely clear, individual consciousness and the vast expanse of the collective unconscious is dangerous, because the unconscious has a decidedly disintegrating effect on consciousness. Yet, even in the midst of the disintegrating chaos of the unconscious there exists a germ of unity, symbolized in alchemy by a globe, which provides the impetus for a higher reintegration (Mysterium Coniunctionis, p. 364).

The notion that chaos plays a critical role in all forms of creativity and change is a prominent theme in the Kabbalah, which, as I point out in my book, Kabbalistic Visions: C. G. Jung and Jewish Mysticism, was a major, if not the major spiritual foundation of western alchemy. For example, the Kabbalist Joseph Ben Shalom of Barcelona (c.1300) held that there is no creation, alteration, or change in which the abyss of nothingness does not, at least for "a fleeting moment" become visible. (Scholem, Major Tends in Jewish Mysticism, p. 217). Late in his life Jung celebrated his discovery that in the 16th century Lurianic Kabbalah, the symbol of Shevirat ha-Kelim, the Breaking of the Vessels, reflects, amongst other things, the notion that the structures of God, world and self, must each be broken and a portion of the “original chaos” reintroduced in order for their to be a creative tikkun or reintegration of the world and the individual’s soul (Jung, Letters, I: 157, 1954).

The notion of an “irrational chaos” as a precondition for transformation, rebirth and creativity is not without its dangers, and was likely a factor in Jung’s initial optimism regarding the Nazi state. In an interview conducted on December 26, 1969, and which Richard Noll quotes from the Jung Biographical Archives, Jolande Jacobi relates:

“His idea [about the Nazi movement] was that chaos gives birth to good or something valuable. So in the German movement he saw a chaotic (we could say) pre-condition for the birth of a new world” (Noll, Aryan Christ, p. 274).

One final observation: Jung is undoubtedly onto something very important in the Red Book and elsewhere when he avers that a confrontation with chaos often heralds a period of creative insight and both spiritual and personal transformation. There are too many testimonies regarding the transformative power of the “night of the soul” to seriously dispute this claim. We must, however, be careful not to fall into the belief that the results of our own confrontation with chaos must, in any respects, be like Jung’s, otherwise we are in violation of Jung’s own warning in the Red Book, not to imitate, but to find our own way:

“The new God laughs at imitation and discipleship” (245).

“The image of the hero was set up…through the appetite for imitation. Therefore the hero was murdered, since we all have been aping him... You must become your own creator” (249).

“The time has come when each must do his own work of redemption” (356).

While I can imagine that for some a confrontation with the chaos of one’s unconscious may result in active imaginative dialogs with biblical and other ancient interior figures, I can’t imagine this as the rule. Indeed, a danger of the whole so-called “Jungian” preoccupation with archetypes, symbols, myths, and ancient deities, is that one will ape the master, instead of venturing into one’s own creative unknown. Indeed, Jung at times, seems to have, perhaps unwittingly, encouraged this, through his archetypal interpretations of his patient’s dreams, his interest in their production of mandalas, etc., and his insistence that the opposites can only be unified through the creation of symbols (as opposed, for example, through reason or love), all of which were in part fueled by his efforts to achieve “evidence” for his hypothesis of the collective unconscious. The beauty of the Red Book, is that it is a relatively raw, unprocessed account of one man’s quest to find his soul, and his reflections about his journey. We must remember, however, that it is at most a general guide. As Jung himself put it:

“One can teach the way that leads to chaos, but one cannot teach magic. One can only remain silent about this, which seems to be the best apprenticeship” (314).

Jung on Self and God

Few of Jung’s ideas have enlisted as much interest and controversy both within and beyond psychology as Jung’s equation of the God archetype with the Self. Especially in his later works, Jung is careful to point out that this equation is purely psychological in nature and he means to imply nothing about the nature of an actual metaphysical deity, the existence of which, Jung says, is beyond the scope of his purely empirical inquiry. Such disclaimers, however, have not deterred others from reading between the lines and deriving from Jung the view that in our own time the transcendent God has died and divinity has been reborn in mankind (Altizer), that Jung adopted an almost solipsistic Gnosticism in which God is discovered through an immersion in the self rather than through an “I-thou” encounter with others (Buber), or even that Jung created an oral tradition, parallel to his writings, that set himself up as a spiritual prophet and incarnation of the deity (Noll). Readers of the Red Book will find support for and against each of these positions, as the relationship between self and God is a pervasive theme in this work. In this post I will provide a brief survey of aspects of the God/Self theme in the Red Book, making some limited references to Jung’s treatments of this theme in Psychological Types and other works.

In the Red Book Jung states in no uncertain terms, “Through uniting with the self we reach God” (338), and this seems to confirm Buber’s allegation of "gnosticism, "i.e. a finding of God through interiority as opposed to an I-thou encounter with others. Jung says that this discovery was both “unexpected and unwanted.” He is convinced that it is not a deception, and that if he is deceived, the deceiver is his God, and “the God is in the deception.” He is certain of its truth, and “No insight or objection is so strong that it could surpass the strength of this experience. He acknowledges that even he himself could explain away his experience with a “theory,” but no theory could even dent his certainty that he has experienced God through uniting with the self.

The notion that God is discovered through a journey into one’s own soul is expressed in multiple ways throughout the Red Book. Early on, Jung asserts that he discovered that “…the depths in me was at the same time the ruler of the depths of world affairs” (231). In various places, Jung affirms that a god is born out of an embrace with oneself (245). This is true for our own time, a time that has witnessed the death of the old “father” God: “Are we not sons of the Gods? Why should Gods not be our children? If my father the God should die, a God child should arise from my maternal heart” (286).”

Parallel to the death of God is the death of the hero. Jung repeatedly affirms that man can no longer look to model himself on a hero, but must forge his own way. “The image of the hero was set up…through the appetite for imitation. Therefore the hero was murdered, since we all have been aping him” (249). With the death of God and the hero, one must descend into one’s “worst and…deepest” and become one’s own creator (249). In the process, “It belongs to this mystery that man is not redeemed through the hero, but becomes a Christ himself” (254). Further, “The new God laughs at imitation and discipleship. He needs no imitators and no pupils. He forces men through himself. The God is his own follower in man. He imitates himself” (245).

Interestingly, in discussing his remark in the Red Book that one reaches God by uniting with the self, Jung asserts that only a sick mind could produce such an experience and conviction. He says that in arriving at this insight he himself is like one who has been overcome by a delusion, adding, “I experience the God in sickness. A living God afflicts our reason like a sickness.” Such a God brings intoxication and chaos. Indeed, according to Jung, God is our “heaviest wound” and “appears as our sickness from which we must heal ourselves.”

Jung’s musings here bring to mind his well known remark in his “Commentary on the Secret of the Golden Flower":

“The gods have become diseases; Zeus no longer rules Olympus but rather the solar plexus, and produces curious specimens for the doctor’s consulting room, or disorders the brains of politicians and journalists who unwittingly let loose psychic epidemics on the world” (Golden Flower, p. 37).

This reflects Jung’s view that modern, rational man, having denied the validity of the gods and myths, has come to experience the psychic forces embodied by these spiritual archetypes as neurotic symptoms. It is this attitude of rational disbelief that Jung, in the 1929 “Commentary” says is “the shortest way to the insane asylum.” In the Red Book, however, Jung seems to be saying that his discovery that the gods are indeed aspects of the unconscious, is itself a “wound” that threatens one with insanity, an insanity from which one can heal oneself. It is in the process of this discovery and healing that one discovers one’s soul.

Jung makes a number of other varied remarks in the Red Book on the connection between self and God. In nearly all of them, however, the fate of God or “the gods” is in the hands of humanity, or in some instances, literally in the hands of Jung himself. As we have seen (in our earlier post on Jung’s tale of the god Izdubar), Jung describes himself as healing the wounded god by having him recognize that he is indeed a fantasy in the mind of man, a fantasy which, on Jung’s view, is paradoxically, the true “reality” of the divine. In describing this, however, Jung speaks of the tremendous power implied by the notion that the fate of the gods is in the hands of man:

“That is the demise of the Gods, man puts them in his pocket. That is the end of the story of the Gods. Nothing remains of the Gods other than an egg. And I possess this egg. Perhaps I can eradicate this last one and with this finally exterminate the race of Gods” (285).

Unlike Nietzsche, however, who had decided, in effect, to let the gods die, Jung chooses to give the gods new life with “incantations” and a theory of fantasy (images, archetypes).

Once reborn, Jung’s God takes on an independence from mankind: “The God of our work stands outside us and no longer needs our help. He is created and remains left to his own devices. A created work that perishes again immediately once we turn away from it is not worth anything, even if it were a God” (288).

At times in the Red Book, Jung speaks in almost Hegelian fashion of the “new God” being born through the spirit of mankind:

“Just as the disciples of Christ recognized that God had become flesh and lived among them as a man, we now recognize that the anointed of this time is a God who does not appear in the flesh; he is no man and yet is a son of man, but in spirit and not in flesh; hence he can be born only through the spirit of man as the conceiving womb of the God” (298).

In any event, Man is a “gateway through which the procession of the Gods passes” (354). Jung’s guide, Philemon, informs him that the dead believe “in the transformation and development of man,” that that they know that “man even creates its Gods,” and as such “the Gods were of no use.” This, of course sounds like the modernist/rationalist position which Jung later criticized as resulting in neurotic complexes. However, Philemon clarifies that the dead had to learn “that man is a gateway through which crowds the train of the Gods and the coming and passing of all times” (354). Jung’s ultimate position on this question is that while man might be said to create the gods, such creation is not a fabrication in order to fulfill an infantile psychological wish or atone for one's guilt (Freud) but rather a spontaneous creative act stemming from the deepest, and thus most meaningful, recesses of the collective unconscious. The gods are, in effect, an archetypical collective fantasy of humanity, and for this reason are as psychically (or phenomenologically) real as the so-called objective world.

The view that man creates God has precedent in several mystical traditions. For example, amongst the Gnostics, with whose writings Jung was deeply involved during the period of the Red Book, we find the claim that “God created men, and men created God. So is it also in the world, since men created gods and worship them as their creations it would be fitting that gods should worship men ("Rudolf, Gnosis, p. 93). A similar point of view is expressed in the classical Kabbalistic text, the Zohar, where we read “He who “keeps” the precepts of the Law and “walks” in God’s ways, if one may say so, “makes” Him who is above” (Zohar III, 113a. Sperling and Simon trans., Vol. 5, p. 153). Finally, in Psychological Types, Jung writes that for the Christian mystic, Meister Eckhart, God is identical to the human soul, quoting Eckhart’s pronouncements that “man is truly God, and God is truly man,” (Psych. Types, par. 416) and “So much…is God in the soul, that his whole divine nature depends on her” (p. 246).

Jung provides a rather sophisticated theological formulation of the relationship between self and God in a letter written on February 19, 1919 to Joan Corrie, and quoted in a footnote by the Red Books editors:

“The primordial creator of the world, the blind creative libido, becomes transformed in man through individuation & out of this process, which is like pregnancy, arises a divine child, a reborn God, no more (longer) dispersed into the millions of creatures, but being one & this individual, and at the same time all individuals, the same in you as in me” (354, n. 123).

While there are passages in the Red Book that might support Noll’s charge that Jung sought to deify himself (as when Jung writes of a vision in which Salome informs him, “You are Christ,” p. 252), on the whole, in the Red Book, as elsewhere, we find Jung formulating with the idea of a divine image or archetype, accessible to all men, which provides those who make the requisite interior journey, profound spiritual meaning.

More serious, however, is Martin Buber’s charge that it is just such an “interior journey” that cuts Jung off from an encounter with divine in the form of the “Eternal thou.” Indeed, in the Red Book, Jung writes that “you produce the divine son in your embrace with yourself” (245), and that “The touchstone is being alone with oneself” (330). While there are certainly places in the Red Book, where he extols love (233. 315, 323, 327, 344), he seems to have difficulty with the notion of what Buber spoke of as an “I –thou” encounter. Jung writes:

“two things have yet to be discovered. The first is the infinite gulf that separates us from one another. The second is the bridge that could connect us” (289).

Jung’s journey in the Red Book is nothing if not a creative quest inward for God, meaning and soul, and indeed, it could be argued that the road-map to such a quest is the unique contribution of both the Red Book and Jungian psychology as a whole. However, we might wonder if a complement or perhaps even an alternative to such a quest is the discovery of meaning through the passions for and encounters and exchanges with, our fellow humans, the very passions, encounters, and exchanges that comprise our intimate, family, and social existence.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Jung on Death

Death and the “dead” are prominent themes in the Red Book, where Jung takes a rather existential approach to the problem of human finitude. His comments on “living towards death” clearly anticipate the philosophy of “Being-towards-death” that Martin Heidegger would advance in his Being and Time in 1927. Jung writes:

“The knowledge of death came to me that night, from the dying that engulfs the world. I saw how we live towards death, how the swaying golden wheat sinks together under the scythe of the reaper like a smooth wave on a sea beach. He who abides in common life becomes aware of death with fear. Thus the fear of death drives him toward singleness. He does not live there, but he becomes aware of life and is happy since in singleness he is one who becomes, and has overcome death” (267).

Thus for Jung, as for Heidegger, the awareness of death and, moreover, incorporation of death into one’s lived experience, provides an opportunity for “individuation” or, to use Heidegger’s term, “authenticity.” Jung goes so far as to hold that by living one’s “singleness” one is able to transcend one’s death.

Both Jung and Heidegger were students of and heirs to Nietzsche who had seen a close relationship between life and death, writing, “Let us beware of saying that death is the opposite of life. The living being is only a species of the dead, and a very rare species.”

According to Jung, “Joy at the smallest things comes to you only when you have accepted death” (275). Death clarifies our vision of things (274) and “teaches us how to live” (275), and provides life with its meaning (275). “How much our life needs death!” (274).

In Symbols of Transformation Jung considered the idea of a “death instinct,” (Symbols, par. 355) which he said had been developed by his “pupil,” “Dr. (Sabina) Spielrein and then taken up by Freud (Symbols, par. 504, n.38). In the Red Book he accepts this idea without question: “Life wants to live and to die, to begin and to end. You are forced to live eternally, but you can also die, since there is a will in you for both” (274).

Jung takes an interesting perspective on death later in the Red Book, when he suggests that in response to death, a man must give up his “personal striving…For everything that previously lurked hungrily in him no longer lives with him in his day. His life is beautiful and rich, since he is himself” (324). This notion, that the consciousness of death leads one to surrender personal striving and desire is quite Buddhist in character.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Jung's "Supreme Meaning:" Sense and Nonsense

Jung’s reference to the “supreme meaning” in the Red Book, suggests that he is positing a primary philosophical or theological principle, perhaps akin to the principle of Brahman-Atman in Indian philosophy or the “Absolute” in Hegelian thought. Jung himself confirms such a view when he says “the supreme meaning is the path, the way and the bridge to what is to come. That is the God yet to come” (229). For Jung, the supreme meaning involves “the melting together of sense and nonsense” (229). Jung explains “The highest truth is one and the same with the absurd” (242) and “The image of God throws a shadow just as great as itself” (230). Further, just as “day requires night and night requires day, so meaning requires absurdity and absurdity requires meaning” (242) Finally, “meaning is a moment and a transition from absurdity to absurdity, and absurdity only a moment and a transition from meaning to meaning” (242).

What are we to make of these ideas? Perhaps we can gain a hint from Jung’s pronouncement that “reality is meaning and absurdity” (242). Jung expresses a similar idea in Psychological Types when he writes,

“The fact that there are two distinct and mutually contradictory views eagerly advocated on either side concerning the meaning and meaninglessness of things shows that processes obviously exist which express no particular meaning, being in fact mere consequences or symptoms; and that there are other processes which bear within them a hidden meaning, processes which are not merely derived from something but which seek to become something, and are therefore symbols” (Psychological Types, par. 822).

Jung’s comments here are set in the context of a discussion of the neurotic's view of his symptoms and thus alludes not only to Aristotle’s distinction between efficient and final causation, but also to Freud’s distinction between “actual neurosis” and “psychoneurosis,” the former being the causal consequence of (for example) damned up libido, the latter involving a binding of that libido in a symptom that symbolizes the individual’s conflict. Here, however, Jung uses the term “symptom” to refer to a purely causal process, and reserves the term “symbol” for any psychic event with meaning.

Interestingly Freud’s notion of a compromise formation that produces a symbolic but debilitating neurotic symptom, becomes in Jung a reconciling principle that enables one to transcend conflict (see the prior posts on the Coincidence of Opposites).

Here, however, the conflict, both on the psychological and philosophical level is the conflict between meaning and absurdity, and Jung proposes the “God yet to come” as a symbol that can "melt together" or reconcile this opposition. Certainly we can experiencve the world as both infinitely meaningful and infinitely contingent and absurd, and any conception of God or Self that does not encompass both of these poles would be woefully incomplete. On purely rational. e.g. Hegelian grounds, an “Absolute” must be infinite, and for such an Absolute to exclude something from itself (i.e. absurdity and meaningless) would be tantamount to surrendering its infinitude. Jung himself suggests that the supreme meaning is infinite when he writes: “The supreme meaning is great and small., it is as wide as the space of the starry Heaven, and narrow as the cell of the human body" (230). Just as one must include meaninglessness and meaning in the supreme meaning, one must also include evil with the good: “You will recognize the supreme meaning by the fact that he is laughter and worship, a bloody laughter and a bloody worship.”

We might suppose that one too obsessed with finding meaning in all things will be haunted by existential meaninglessness as a kind of “return of the repressed” in the same way that one obseessed with the good will be haunted by his own evil.

Jung tells us that absurdity is the background contrast against which meaning can be perceived, and that meaning is best observed in those transitions from nonsense, where a meaningful light is suddenly revealed against a curtain of meaningless darkness (242). The question arises as to whether meaning that emerges against a meaningless background is inherent in things, or as per the existentialists and postmodernists, something brought to a meaningless or neutral ground via human construction. I believe that this question is ultimately left ambiguous in Jungian psychology. In the Red Book Jung is quite adamant that meaning is something contributed to things by the human subject

“Event signify nothing. They signify only in us. We create the meaning of events. The meaning is and always was artificial. We make it” (239)

“The meanings that follow one another do not lie in things, but lie in you, who are subject to many changes, insofar as you take part in life. Things also change, but you do not notice this if you do not change. But if you change the countenance of the world alters.” (273)

In the “Seven Sermons,” we read, “you must not forget that the Pleroma has no qualities. We create these through thinking” (349).

These rather clear postmodernist/constructivist pronouncements do not, however, comport very well with Jungian psychology as a whole. This is because the “archetypes” are presumably trans-individual and even transcultural meanings that are brought to the world by a collective, objective psyche, as opposed to an individual or existential one. Further, for Jung, the meanings embodied in the archetypes, insofar as they are part of the objective psyche, are as real as anything in the so-called objective outer world. We might say that like the Kantian categories of space and time, Jungian meanings are iridescent concepts, that lie on the cusp between the subjective and the objective, or better, moments in the transition from both absurdity to meaning as well as from objective to subjective and vice versa.

The question of the world’s ultimate meaning like the question of whether there is meaning in dreams might best be answered with Buddhist or dialetheistic logic: the answer is both and neither. Perhaps embracing this ambiguity is a path to wisdom and to the discovery of one’s soul.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Coincidence of Opposites in Jung's Psychological Types

In my previous post I discussed the notion of the coincidence of opposites as it appears in Jung’s Red Book. In this post, I propose to briefly examine this idea as it is treated Psychological Types, which is from the same period as The Red Book.

Psychological Types is an extremely wide ranging work that is loosely structured around Jung’s examination of the “type problem” in philosophy, literature, biography and psychology. By "type" Jung refers specifically to personality types that are characterized by the polarities of thinking/feeling and introversion/extraversion. Jung holds that a complete psychological understanding of the psyche can occur neither through thinking (science) nor feeling alone, but only via a higher third principle which unites them, creative fantasy (PT par. 86-6). Indeed. Jungian psychology cannot be fully grounded in either thought nor feeling; if grounded in the latter it loses its order and claim to validity, if in the latter it loses its connection with life.

Jung extends the notion of complementarity to his critique of Freudian and Adlerian psychology, each of which neglects the opposition proffered by the other (instinct by Freud and the aims of the ego by Adler). Each of these psychologies is complete on its own terms, but found to be incomplete when examined in light of the principle that grounds the other. Interpretations can always be made that accord with Freud’s “infantile wishes” and Adler’s aims of “security and differentiation of the ego” (PT par. 89), but these offer only partial truths that cannot claim total validity. While these two perspectives might complement one another, they are each incomplete because they reject the reconciling principle of the imagination (PT par. 93). Later in Psychological Types, Jung tells us that it is only the imagination, through its production of symbols, and in particular religious and spiritual symbols (see PT par. 824-5), that we are able to transcend and in effect reconcile the demands of instinct with the aims of the ego. Jung allows that the opposites can in certain respects be reconciled through art, but he is critical of Nietzsche and others who remain on the level of the aesthetic and fail to recognized the overaching importance of spiritual and religious symbols. He is certainly critical of any effort at an intellectual resolution to the problem. While he initiatlly suggests that “It remains an open question whether the opposition between the two standpoints can ever be satisfactorily resolved in intellectual terms” (PT par. 84), he is later quite emphatic: "opposites are not to be united rationally…that is precisely why they are called opposites” (PT par. 169). For Jung, “opposites can be united only in the form of a compromise, or irrationally…only…through living” (PT par. 169). The idea here is familiar to psychotherapists: a patient who finds himself on the horns of a conflict between his homosexuality and the demands of the Catholic church, for example, does not and cannot resolve this conflict in intellectual terms, but can come to lead a life in which the conflict is transcended.

Jung considers Friedrich Schiller’s idea that one can have a complete intuition of his humanity by “at once being conscious of his freedom…and sensible of existence as matter” (PT par. 169—quotations are from Jung’s quotation of Schiller). The idea here is that perhaps one could simultaneously experience both polarities of a Kantian antinomy—thinking of oneself as both a free willing subject and as a causally determined material entity. Jung sees this as a case of “thinking by sensing and sensing by thinking.” According to Jung such a reconciliation can only occur on the irrational level of the imagination, through the production of living symbols. However. neitherreason nor feeling can produce symbols (PT par. 179), which must arise unconsciously and spontaneously through the vehicle of the imagination, which “alone has the power to supply the will with a content of such a nature that it can unite the opposites” (PT par. 185). Jung terms the process by which the opposites are mediated through imagination and life. the transcendent function (PT par. 184, cf. par 828).

While Jung says that he rejects the idea of a rational reconciliation of the opposites, several of his remarks (including but by no means limited to those regarding Jung and Adler) suggest the need for a theoretical synthesis. For example he proposes that we “have the right on purely empirical grounds to treat the contents of the unconscious as just as real at the things of the outside world” (PT par. 279), and this proposal comes very close to the theoretical solution offered by Husserlian phenomenology. Jung’s remark that “theosophy and spiritualism are just as violent in their encroachments on other spheres as materialism” (PT par. 280) seems to invite a theoretical perspective that might be inclusive of each. In his discussion of William James Jung considers the conflict between intellectual and intuitive truths and accepts James’ pragmatic eclecticism as a necessary part of the solution to the problem of conflicting foundations in philosophy and psychology. However, Jung ultimately concludes that both conceptualism and pragmatism are inadequate to the task of integrating “logically irreconcilable” views as they inevitably lead to a loss of creativity. Only a “positive act of creation” can “assimilate[] the opposites as necessary points of co-ordination” (PT par. 341). With respect to the fragmentation in philosophy and psychology and the reconciliation of the two types of truth, one wonders if Jung’s “creative fantasy” promises more than it delivers. :Perhaps a "positive act of creation" can produce a reconcilliation that is acceptable on both a theoretical and inruitive (experiential) level.

Jung makes parenthetic reference to Hegel’s efforts to reconcile the opposites, suggesting that although ”intuitive ideas” underlie Hegel’s system, they remained subordinated to intellect (PT par. 340).

Jung suggests that when one travels far down the path of a given perspective, its opposite emerges, stating, however, that only a few “reach the rim of the world, where its mirror-image begins” (PT par. 281).

Jung holds that various religions and thinkers have evoked different notions as their principles for uniting the opposites, for the Christians it is the worship of God, for the Buddhists the realization and development of the Self, and for Goethe it is “the worship of the soul, symbolized by the worship of women.” Jung takes a special interest in the Christian mystic and philosopher, Meister Eckhardt who sees a coincidence of opposites between God and man, and who seeks to unite the opposites by discovering God within his own soul, a task, by the way, which occupies Jung throughout much of the Red Book, and which I have explored in my post on the Tales of Izdubar, and will examine further in a later posting.

The Coincidence and Conflict of Opposites in Jung’s Red Book

The notion of coincidentia oppositorum, the coincidence of opposites plays a central, if not the central role, in Jung’s thought. In his earlier work, Jung held that a “non-rational” union of opposites enables the individual to transcend and ultimately overcome his or her conflicts. Indeed, Jung held that there is a non-rational instinctive human function, which he termed the “transcendent function,” that mediates and combines opposites through the production of fantasies and symbols, and which enables the individual to gain a new perspective and more encompassing and rewarding attitude toward what he formerly regarded to be an insoluble dilemma or conflict. Unlike Hegel, whose dialectic of opposing principles and ideas Jung regarded to be conscious and rational, Jung held that the transcendent function involves a combination of conscious and unconscious elements and goes far beyond and is indeed opaque to thought and reason. In his later work, Jung regarded the coincidence of opposites to be constitutive of both the God archetype and the Self. Throughout his career, Jung traced the appearance of the notion of coincidentia oppositorum in such varied arenas as Brahmanic thought, Christian mysticism, Alchemy and the Kabbalah.

The Red Book is replete with Jung’s not as yet fully formed on the coincidence of opposites, and we see him struggling to make sense of the personal experiences that apparently led him to this notion. In the processes he considers a variety of oppositions: meaning and nonsense, fullness and emptiness, love and hate (343), action and thought (293), madness and reason (317), pleasure and thinking (247), above and below (315), etc. Jung tells us, for example, “immense fullness and immense emptiness are one and the same” (273), thinking and feeling “are each other’s poison and healing” (248), and “If no outer adventure happens to you, then no inner adventure happens either” (263).

Jung says that one only achieves a “presentiment of the whole” (248) and can only “achieve balance” by nurturing one’s “opposite.” However, doing so is very difficult as nurturing the opposite of one’s own thoughts, feelings and attitudes “is hateful to you in your innermost core, because it is not heroic” (263). We will see that this idea is essential to Jung’s polemic against the heroic in the Red Book, which he sees as inimical to individuation as it grows out of the “appetite for imitation” (249). Jung confesses quite candidly, “It is difficult for me to unite love and hate” (343).

Jung informs us that the “new God” he speaks of in the Red Book, the one that has been reborn subsequent to his demise at the hands of Nietzsche on the one hand and the poison of science on the other, is a union of opposing principle, and “develops through the union of [such] principles in me” (254). Presumably, Jung holds that the new God develops through the reconciliation of opposites in the mind and souls of individual men and women. Jung is here developing the notion of the identity of the God and the Self archetypes, which figures so prominently in his later psychology, and which later served as part of the foundation for Altizer’s death of God theology, in which the divine is effectively reborn in the psyche of man.

If God is associated with the union of opposites within the human psyche, it is the “serpent” which keeps the opposites separate: “It is always the serpent that causes man to become enslaved now to one, now to the other principle, so that it becomes error” (247). Interestingly, Jung is here beginning to develop the view that one can surmount evil only by accepting that it is part of God and self, an idea that was to later become the major theme in his Answer to Job.

Jung’s interest in the coincidence of opposites leads him to what logicians would describe as a violation of the law of non-contradiction. According to Jung. “The magical is good and evil and neither good nor evil.” Such multi-valued or dialetheistic logic was assumed by Buddhist logicians, but has rarely been advocated in the west, which, with the exception of the several decades when Hegelian logic rose to prominence, has been largely dominated by Aristotelian, either/or, linear thinking.

Jung is not of one mind regarding the unity of opposites. While it is absolutely necessary to unite the opposites in one’s quest for one’s soul, their complete unity is not wholly desirable, since:

"after the opposites had been united, quite unexpectedly and incomprehensibly nothing further happened. Everything remained in place, peacefully and yet completely motionless, and life turned into a complete standstill" (319).

While Satan derogates the union of opposites (“Reconciliation of the opposites! Equal rights for all! Follies!”, 326), we must give the devil his do and recognize that it may indeed be the case that “the conflict of opposites belong(s) to the inescapable conditions of life..(and that one) who recognizes and lives the unity of opposites stand(s) still…” Jung’s own soul asks him if he could even live “without divisiveness and disunity.” This is because one needs to “get worked up about something, represent a party, overcome opposites, if you want to live” (319). Life itself is the overcoming of opposites; when they have been completely overcome one, like the Buddha in his final reincarnation, has no further reason to live on earth.

The editors of the Red Book point out that later on Jung held that the concept of the coincidence of opposites itself must be complemented by its own opposite, radical difference if God (or the Self) is not to cancel itself out. Indeed, “The principle of the coincidence of opposites must therefore be completed by its opposite in order to attain full paradoxicality and hence psychological validity” (The spirit Mercurius 1942, CW 13, par, 256).

We can gain considerable insight into the theme of the coincidence of opposites as it appears in the Red Book, by examining this same themes as it is treated, more systematically, in Psychological Types, which, as we have seen, was written by Jung during a hiatus in the Red Book’s composition. This will be the subject of my next post.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Jung's Red Book: A List of Major Themes

I have now completed my initial study of the Red Book and am in the process of organizing my observations under a series of themes. Over the next weeks and months, in addition to commenting on specific sections of Liber Novus I will be commenting on the following Red Book themes:

Sense and Nonsense
The Coincidence of Opposites
The Conflict of Opposites
Fantasy and the Objective Psyche
Belief and Knowledge
The Nature of Symbols
The Critique of Science
The Critique of Reason
The Supreme Meaning
Self and God
On Individuation
Existential Themes
This Life
The Dead
Postmodern Ideas
The Critique of Values and Morality
The Critique of Giving
The Shadow
Renewal and Rebirth
The Sickness, Death, Healing and Rebirth of God
Cognitive Psychology
Jung’s Self-Criticism
Thoughts on Anti-Semitism
The Devil
“I and Thou”
On Language
On Religion
Magic and the Unknown
The Collective Unconscious
Mind and Brain
Gnostic Themes

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Magician, pp. 312-330

In this long section of Liber Secundus we are introduced to Philemon, the “magician” who later introduces Jung to the Gnostic mysteries via the Seven Sermons to the Dead. Jung tells us that Philemon’s “magical rod lies in a cupboard together with the sixth and seventh books of Moses and the wisdom of Hermes Trismegitsus.” Interestingly, Jung himself kept The Red Book in his kitchen cupboard at Kusnacht, where it remained even for years after his death. Of further note, the Sixth and Seventh books of Moses is a book of Kabbalistic magical spells that was published in 1849 by Johann Schiebel, who claimed, without warrant, that the spells were derived from ancient Talmudic and Kabbalistic sources.

The introduction of “magic” provides Jung with the opportunity to discuss the role of reason and unreason in the search for one’s soul. Jung says, “Whenever I want to learn and understand something I leave my so-called reason at home and give whatever it is that I am trying to understand the benefit of the doubt. I have learned this gradually, because nowadays the world of science is full of scary examples of the opposite” (313).

With regard to the nature of magic Philemon tells Jung, “there is nothing to understand…Magic happens to be everything that eludes comprehension.” The difficulty with magic is precisely the difficulty of existing without reason. However, since reason declines with old age, most magicians are advanced in years.

Jung makes a number of other interesting observations about magic. We learn that “It is an error to believe that there are magical practices that one can learn. One cannot understand magic. One can only understand what accords with reason. Magic accords with unreason, which one cannot understand. The world accords not only with reason but with unreason” (314). Further, “Magical understanding is what one calls noncomprehension…One calls incomprehensible workings magical.”

“Where reason abides, no one needs magic. Hence our time no longer needs magic. Only those without reason needed it to replace their lack of reason.” But it is thoroughly unreasonable to bring together what suits reason with magic since they have nothing to do with one another.”

“But it is another thing for whoever has opened the chaos in himself…We recognized that the world comprises reason and unreason; and we also understood that our way needs only reason but also unreason.”

“But one can be certain that the greater part of the world eludes our understanding…a part of the incomprehensible, however, is only presently incomprehensible and might already concur with reason tomorrow.”

“The practice of magic consists in making what is not understood understandable in an incomprehensible manner.”

“If one opens up chaos, magic also arises.”

“One can teach the way that leads to chaos, , but one cannot teach magic. One can only remain silent about this, which seems to be the best apprenticeship.”

How can we understand this series of pronouncements that link magic, with “unreason,” “noncomprehension,” and inner chaos? We can begin by turning to Jung's Psychological Types, which as we know was written during the same period that Jung was composing TheRed Book. There (p. 454, par. 773) Jung says that he uses the term “irrational” “not as denoting something contrary to reason, but something beyond reason, something, therefore, not grounded on reason.” This, he informs us, includes “elementary facts,” for example, “That the earth has a moon, that chlorine is an element, that water reaches its greatest density at for degrees centigrade.” Chance, and the accidental features of objects and events also included under the heading of the irrational.

While we might question some of Jung’s examples, it is clear that for him, “unreason” is that which is at least currently beyond reason and comprehension. While certain things that today exist in the “forest” of incomprehension and unreason may some day enter the “clearing” of knowledge and reason, for Jung, there is also an essential irrational, an essential incomprehensible, an essential unknown. (An example of this might be the non-answer to Heidegger's famous question, "Why is there anything at all?"). It is the belief in the existence and significance of an essential unknown that is one of the features that distinguishes Jungian thought from much of contemporary psychology. Indeed, Jung’s respect for the essentially unknowable places him in close proximity to the mystics. For example, according to the Jewish mystics, the infinite God, Ein-sof (literally, “Without End”):

cannot be an object of thought, let alone of speech, even though there is an indication of it in everything, for there is nothing beyond it. Consequently, there is no letter, no name, no writing, and no word that can comprise it (I. Tishby. The Wisdom of the Zohar, p. 234.)

The locus classicus of the Kabbalah, the Zohar describes Ein-sof as:

the limit of inquiry. For Wisdom was completed from ayin (nothing), which is no subject of inquiry, since it is too deeply hidden and recondite to be comprehended. From the point at which its light begins to extend it is the subject of inquiry, although it is still more recondite than anything beneath, and it is called the interrogative pronoun, “Who?” Hence “Who (Mi) created these”, and also, “From the womb of Whom (Mi) came forth the ice”; as much as to say, that about which we can inquire but find no answer (Zohar 1:30a. The Zohar, Sperling and Simon Vol. 1, p. 114.

Jung equated the infinite God with the unconscious, as the two were for him, psychologically indistinguishable, and he regarded the unconscious as containing an element of the essential unknown. In his “Relations of The Ego to the Unconscious,” (1928) Jung later wrote, “There is little hope of our being able to reach even an approximate consciousness of the self, since however much we make conscious there will always exist an indeterminate and undeterminable amount of unconscious material which belongs to the totality of the self.”

In contrast to those of a positivist or naturalistic viewpoint who hold that the entire cosmos, including the human mind, is a rationally ordered system that will be progressively subject to the conquest of human theory and knowledge, Jung held that the deepest, most interesting layers of the soul, present themselves as insuperable mysteries that are essentially impenetrable to human reason, and further that it is only through a confrontation with such mysteries and the psychological chaos that results from this confrontation that one can fully encounter one’s soul and become individuated as a Self. This, for Jung, is the “magic” of Philemon, and indeed of a true depth psychology. In a letter to Hans Schmid, dated Nov 6, 1915 (See Red Book, p. 237 n. 337) Jung writes: “the core of the individual is a mystery of life, which dies when it is grasped…That is why, in the later stages of analysis, we must help the other to come to those hidden and un-openable symbols, in which the seed of life lies securely hidden like the tender seed in the hard shell.”

Six months after Jung's letter to Schmid, a young philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, who would soon become the the darling of logical positivism, wrote in his notebooks, "The I, the I is what is deeply mysterious," (L. Wittgenstein, Notebooks, Trans. G.E. M. Anscombe, p. 80e) and less than three yaers later: "We feel that even when all possible scientific questions have been answered, the problems of life remain completely untouched." According to Wittgenstein, "There are, indeed, things that cannot be put into words. They make themselves manifest. They are what is mystical." (Tractatus Logico Philosophicus 6.52, 6.522, Trans. Pears and McGuiness, Routledge & Kegan Paul).

Friday, October 30, 2009

Jung's Tales of Izdubar, pp. 277-88

In one of The Red Book's most significant passages, one that I believe will provide an important key to understanding Jung's thought, Jung tells of his encounters with the sick God, Izdubar (Gilgamesh). This God, who Jung pictures on page 36 of the Calligraphic Volume is described as possessing a ruffled black beard “decked with exquisite stones,” two bull horns rising from his head, with a “rattling suit of armour” over his chest, and carrying a “sparkling double axe in his hand” (278). We soon learn that Izdubar has been lamed by the “awful magic” of science, a science that humanity has gown accustomed to, but which, Jung acknowledges, has somewhat lamed man as well. Jung tells Izdubar: “We had to swallow the poison of science. Otherwise we would have met the same fate as you have: we’d be completely lamed, if we encountered it unsuspected and unprepared.” Science, Jung informs Izdubar, has also taken from man his capacity to believe in the gods. Somehow, Jung concludes that in spite of this, he must stand by Izdubar, who he calls, “my God,” and who he because of his love for this God, he cannot abandon (281). Jung tells us that his God his sick, and that he has no other choice but to attempt to heal him, for otherwise Jung’s life would be “broken in half.” Here we find Jung’s fascinating response Nietzsche’s “death of God.” Zarathustra had declared:

God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?

For Jung, God, whether dead or only deathly ill, must be healed by man:

…our God is sick. We have seen him dead with the venomous gaze of the Basilisk on his face, and we have understood that he is dead. We nmust think of his healing (281).

Jung’s medicine is audacious in its formulation and radical in its implications: his God, Izdubar, must accept that he is a fantasy, as only in this way can he be trenewed in his life. Jung fears that Izdubar will reject his proposal out of hand as “he will claim that he is completely real and that he can only be helped in a real way” (282). But Jung succeeds in convincing the god to go along with his plan, suggesting to him: “I do not mean to say that you are not real at all, of course, but only as real as a fantasy” (282). In this statement Jung transitions to a way of thinking, an epistemology, that will characterize all of his future thought. The imagination, the products of the psyche, especially those of the collective imagination/unconscious are every bit as real, or even more real, than the objects of the so-called real and objective world! Jung tells us straight away: “The tangible and apparent world is one reality, but fantasy is the other reality” (283). Izdubar, is prepared to acknowledge that he is a fantasy, if only on the pragmatic ground that it might help to heal him. Jung then finds that he can carry the God, and indeed, without difficulty, squeeze him “into the size of an egg and put him in {his] pocket,” after which he walks the god into a “welcoming house” where he is healed. Jung notes:

Thus my God found salvation. He was saved precisely by what one would actually consider fatal, namely by declaring him a figment of the imagination (283).

Throughout The Red Book, Jung turns traditional epistemology on its head: placing his weight on the side of the imaginary as opposed to the real, the irrational as opposed to the rational, madness as opposed to sanity, and even the evil as opposed to the good. His position is not unlike the one Derrida would take 60 years hence: that of redressing the imbalance resulting from the traditions’ “privileging” of certain critical ideas over their opposites.

The Red Book can and should be read in conjunction with Jung’s major “scientific” work of the period, Psychological Types, which was apparently written between July 1919 and February 1920 (see note 230, Red Book p. 205), during a hiatus in Jung’s work on the Black Book 7, which was one of the notebooks that eventual fed into The Red Book.

In this context it is imporatnt to consider Jung's views on science and fantasy in Psychological Types, where he argues that creative fantasy is the bridge that unites thinking and feeling, and thus unites the science of psychology with a psychology of human experience (Psych. Types, par. 84) and, as Jung puts it, "the springs of life" (Psychological Types, par. 86). According to Jung, "every creative individual whatsoever owes all that is greated in his life to fantasy" (Psych. Types, par. 93).

In Psychological Types, Jung provides an account of the nature of God that might be spoken of as a scholarly version of his healing and in effect re-birthing Izdubar in The Red Book. In discussing the theology of Meister Eckhardt, Jung recites that God and the soul are identical, that “God must be withdrawn from objects and brought into the soul, and this is the ‘higher sate’ in which God is ‘blissful’” (Psychological Types par. 421). Jung quotes Eckhardt to the effect that God created the world so that He might be born in man’s soul, which on Jung’s interpretation indicates that “God is dependent on the soul, and at the same time, that the soul is the birthplace of God” (Psych. Types par. 426). Indeed Jung notes that Eckhardt himself writes, “ Know that without me God can no moment live: Were I to die, then He could no longer survive.” (Psych. Types, par. 432). Jung will later in The Red Book meditate on the implications of his being the “mother” of his God, and of his having the power to either heal or exterminate the race of Gods (RB 285).

Jung’s notion that humanity has, in the power of its imagination, the capacity to heal and give life to the gods recalls the Gnostic formula:

God created men, and men created God. So is it also in the world, since men created gods and worship them as their creations it would be fitting that gods should worship men.[1]

Of equal interest is the Chabad Hasidic formula that both earth and the heavens partake in reality and illusion, being and nothingness:

(Looking) upwards from below, as it appears to eyes of flesh, the tangible world seems to be Yesh and a thing, while spirituality, which is above, is an aspect of Ayin (nothingness). (But looking) downwards from above the world is an aspect of Ayin, and everything which is linked downwards and descends lower and lower is more and more Ayin and is considered as naught truly as nothing and null.[2]

Jung, with his concepts of the “Objective Psyche,” and the reality of fantasy provides epistemological content to these theosophical ideas.

[1] Rudolph. Gnosis. p. 93.
[2]Schneur Zalman Likutei Torah, Devarim, fol. 83a. Quoted in R. Elior, The Paradoxical Ascent to God, p. 137-8.