So, the homework title for my Write Said Fred writing group, chosen by Simon, is “The Colour Red”. The Muse had instructed me to write about Jung. Jung wrote a secret book called “The Red Book” published long after his death. And invented the term synchronicity. Makes sense.
Carl Gustav Jung. Most of the information here is from a great book called “Jung The Mystic” by Gary Lachman, I strongly recommend all of Gary’s books, he was the bass guitarist for Blondie too.
Although Jung said “Everyone who says I am a mystic is just an idiot”, just about everyone including Freud did and does.
But then Shakespeare said “Life … is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
Jung “discovered” the collective unconscious, the inner realm of inherited images and symbols we come equipped with at birth and add our repressed and forgotten material to.
He also coined the terms introvert, extravert, anima and shadow.
He said mystical experience is that of the archetypes- psychic blueprints of those inherited images.
He also originated the calling of meaningful coincidences as “synchronicities”.
He was enthralled by the supernatural and paranormal, but was extremely cautious about publicising this, keen to be seen as a scientist.
He was seen by many as a universal guru, with much of his teaching coming purely from his individual experience. He taught individuation, becoming “who you are”, by looking within, the lifelong psychological process of differentiation of the self out of each individual’s conscious and unconscious elements.
He was beloved of the counterculture, appearing on the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
Hermann Hesse, author of works such as Siddhartha and Steppenwolf, was treated by Joseph Lang, a student of Jung. For Hesse this began a long preoccupation with psychoanalaysis, through which he came to know Jung.
American abstract expressionist Jackson Pollock underwent Jungian psychotherapy in 1939 with Joseph Henderson. His therapist made the decision to engage him through his art, and had Pollock make drawings, which led to the appearance of many Jungian concepts in his paintings.
Musician David Bowie described himself as Jungian in his relationship to dreams and the unconscious. Australian artist Tanja Stark extensively explored Jungian aspects of his work in her essay “Crashing Out with Sylvian: David Bowie, Carl Jung and the Unconscious”. Bowie sang of Jung on his album Aladdin Sane (a word play on sanity) and attended the exhibition of The Red Book in New York with artist Tony Oursler , who described Bowie as “… reading and speaking of the psychoanalyst with passion”. Bowie’s 1967 song “Shadow Man” poetically encapsulates a key Jungian concept, while in 1987 Bowie tellingly described the Glass Spiders of Never Let Me Down as Jungian mother figures around which he not only anchored a worldwide tour, but also created an enormous onstage effigy.
The Police released an album called Synchronicity influenced by the ideas of Jung. The album cover artwork features a photograph of lead singer Sting reading Jung’s book Synchronicity, with text from this book overlaid across the image.
Federico Fellini brought to the screen an exuberant imagery shaped by his encounter with the ideas of Jung, especially Jungian dream interpretation. Fellini preferred Jung to Freud because Jungian analysis defined the dream not as a symptom of a disease that required a cure but rather as a link to archetypal images shared by all of humanity.
The Persona series of video games is heavily based on his theories.
When Jung was being interviewed for his autobiography he hated it so much he had to be bribed with a bottle of expensive Burgundy after each interview.
He was surprisingly distant even with his own children, his daughter didn’t even realise he was her father at the age of eight. He improved with time.
He was introverted, as he would say, as a child to the point of being asocial.
His grandfather was also a doctor and quite a character, rumours were he was the illegitimate son of the poet Goethe.
His mother had a split personality, possibly related to being made to shoo away unruly ghosts who would distract her own priestly father from working on his sermons.
She later developed mediumistic powers.
Jung was a little obsessed with death as a child, and also had a fear of Jesuits.
He experienced his own visions or hallucinations.
Having to develop a social persona at school made him fear he would lose his identity, and he would set little fires and occasionally believed he was his favourite stone. He also created a wooden fetish like figure with its own stone and bed and hid it in the attic, and would leave it messages. He felt keeping a secret helped him preserve his individuality.
He later realised it resembled the Greek God Telesphoros.
Like Goethe and Nietzsche he was terrible at maths. He then developed the habit of fainting to avoid going to school altogether, before shame led to his bullying himself out of it.
He believed he formed a second personality he called The Other. He also became obsessed with a vision of cosmic defecation.
Personality no.1 made a comeback though, strengthened by Jung’s reading of the philosophers Schopenhauer and Kant.
He was often inspired by vivid symbolic dreams which he believed helped him to grow as to transcend problems.
He eventually decided to study Medicine at the University of Basel.
After his father died he had two dreams of him so vivid he seriously began to consider the possibility of life after death.
I had dreams of my late father too, I knew he had died in them, so didn’t understand
how he had returned, one night my dream became lucid and as I reached out to touch him he turned a sort of misty gold and just melted away, never to return.
Taking more responsibility Jung then had a slight personality change, being nicknamed The Barrel for the amount of beer he was able to drink, discovering he could dance, briefly falling in love, telling spooky ghost stories and carrying a revolver.
He developed an interest in spiritualism, which many famous people believed in at that time such as Edison. He led a group of students performing occult experiments.
Odd incidents of objects spontaneously shattering at home led to participation in seances, but with suspicion the medium Helly may have been in love with Jung and after his attention. But as one of the personalities she exhibited was much more mature this intrigued Jung. He felt perhaps splintered parts of her personality had formed this whole. But she was finally caught cheating.
Psychiatry seemed boring to Jung at first until he finally had a revelation reading a textbook by a sexologist Krafft-Ebing.
His first boss was Bleuler, who coined the phrase schizophrenia. He was a workaholic who forced all the assistants to be teetotal like him. Jung seemed to enjoy the monkish lifestyle, and the often surreal utterances of the patients. He used word association and invented a precursor of the lie detector.
He married a well to do young lady and became a senior doctor and clinical director. Sadly for his wife, he had a series of patients as Muses and sexual partners, and a set of groupies called “the fur-coated ladies”.
A bromance via letter writing with Sigmund Freud followed, before Freud was famous. When they met they chatted for thirteen hours straight. He also met a libertine patient, Otto Gross, whose free love ideas likely disinhibited Jung.
Jung and Freud did have a bit of a tiff about parapsychology, even whether a poltergeist phenomenon had happened in their midst on one occasion. Awkward.
As Jung’s not being happy to accept Freud’s idea that sex is the central motive behind everything.
Freud began to faint every time Jung did a talk mentioning death, fearing Jung had a death wish against him.
Things got worse when they tried to analyse each other’s dreams on a trip to the USA.
Jung though started looking into his own interpretation of his complex dream and reading about mythology, and began to believe they were trying to tell us something through symbols, and that delusions of patients used inherited mythological material.
Jung described archetypal events: birth, death, separation from parents, initiation, marriage, the union of opposites; archetypal figures: great mother, father, child, devil, god, wise old man, wise old woman, the trickster, the hero; and archetypal motifs: the apocalypse, the deluge, the creation. Although the number of archetypes is limitless, there are a few particularly notable, recurring archetypal images, “the chief among them being” (according to Jung) “the shadow, the wise old man, the child, the mother … and her counterpart, the maiden, and lastly the anima in man and the animus in woman”. Alternatively he would speak of “the emergence of certain definite archetypes … the shadow, the animal, the wise old man, the anima, the animus, the mother, the child”.
The Self designates the whole range of psychic phenomena in man. It expresses the unity of the personality as a whole.
The shadow is a representation of the personal unconscious as a whole and usually embodies the compensating values to those held by the conscious personality. Thus, the shadow often represents one’s dark side, those aspects of oneself that exist, but which one does not acknowledge or with which one does not identify.
The anima archetype appears in men and is his primordial image of woman. It represents the man’s biological expectation of women, but also is a symbol of a man’s feminine possibilities, his contrasexual tendencies. The animus archetype is the analogous image of the masculine that occurs in women.
Jung’s ideas were influential on Joseph Campbell who wrote “The Hero With A Thousand Faces” which identifies the core story in so much religion, mythology and today’s Hollywood blockbusters.
Eventually Jung disagreed with Freud too much, so Freud naturally concluded he must be neurotic, and Freud’s posse such as Ernest Jones turned on him all the more so.
A midlife crisis was survived by yoga and repetition of a mantra of mundanity to anchor him in the real world. He then decided to let go, and go mad. More dreams and visions followed. He met his inner guru, Philemon, who appears in paintings in The Red Book. Synchronicities abounded.
Figures he met exploring his inner world seemed to have a life of their own. Hypnagogia featured often. He used a technique called active imagination.
He would enter a fantasy and grab hold of and ask questions and receive knowledge from the characters within, triggering the transcendent function, uniting conscious and unconscious minds. Synchronistic and paranormal phenomena will increase.
Even in psychological distress, focus on a bad mood and make it as conscious as possible, crystallising it into a symbol or fantasy image, when the unrest will vanish.
His “woman’s” voice within he would call the anima.
In this phase, the paintings of The Red Book and enigmatic Seven Sermons to the Dead were produced, the latter via automatic writing, via a Gnostic teacher, Basilides, similar to Aleister Crowley’s The Book of the Law. The Gnostic God Abraxas pops up, uniter of the opposites.
He created an “intellectual cave”, decorated in coloured glass. An early man cave…
The dead started to appear, to Jung and his children.
Sketchings of the mandala began.
Jung emerged from all this crossing of the abyss convinced his inner realities were… real…
The book Psychological Types introduced concepts still massive now. Concepts of the introvert, extrovert and four thinking types of thinking, feeling, sensation and intuition, leading to the Myers-Briggs Personality Test.
He began to dabble in horoscopes and the I Ching, believing it worked through spiritual agencies forming the living soul of the book.
After his mother died, Jung created a mandala in stone, The Tower, where he lived in a slightly bonkers primitive way. It was a safe space for people to go crazy in.
He used to chat away to his pots, utensils and stove. Stone carvings happened.
He did like to hang with native African tribes, a rhinoceros whip came in handy on one occasion to persuade a rather boisterous possibly homicidal one that he was crazier than they.
Next was a study of alchemy, not so much the creating gold, as the spiritual transformation, blending conscious and unconscious.
Pre-WW2 Jung’s works were popular in Germany, but he did speak out against Hitler, at the same time was accused of duplicity. As Agent 488 for the OSS though, he was acknowledged as contributing to the Allied cause.
Linking East to West, Jung would comment not only on the I Ching, but Taoism, Zen and the Tibetan Book of the Dead.
After a leg break and heart attack Jung had an NDE where he had a vivid trip but was disappointingly sent back from his doctor in the form of the King of Kos before discovering some juicy truths in the temple. He assumed this meant the earthly doctor must have sacrificed his life in Jung’s place, he did indeed take to his bed on 4.4.44 and then die. Spooky.
The bonkers book Aion, I Ching chat and Age of Aquarius mentions followed this wake up call. UFOs were mandalas from outer space. Maybe crop circles are too.
An example of a synchronicity Jung mentions is an infuriatingly rationalistic woman who is recounting a dream about a golden scarab. Jung hears a knocking at the window. Opening it, a golden-green scarab flew into the room.
The best synchronicity example though. When a boy, M. Deschamps was given a plum pudding by M. de Fortugibu. Ten years later, he saw some plum pudding in a Paris restaurant and asked for it, only to find it had just been ordered by M. de Fortugibu. Many years later, he was invited to a dinner where plum pudding would be served. Remarking on his curious history with the rare delight, he mentioned that all that was needed now was for old M. de Fortugibu to appear- at which, a senile M. de Fortugibu, who had come to the wrong address, walked in.
On the day he died, Barrel said “let’s have a really good red wine tonight.”
He had earlier said “what happens after death is so unspeakably glorious that our imagination and feelings do not suffice to form even an approximate conception of it”.
Now that mysterious Red Book, appearing only in 2009. Likened to finding the Dead Sea Scrolls, Emerald Tablet of Hermes or Necronomicon.
His inner journey is chronicled. There is the influence of Nietzsche. It is about finding your own way and living your own life. And included Jung’s entrancing paintings, and mandalas. Inducing visionary states and trying to draw meaning and insight from them.
So a man who was often a bit of a bastard to people, but who came up with some remarkable and influential ideas.
Freud may have been onto something in saying everything is about sex, but I am a sucker for a bit of spirituality, so I guess that makes me Jung at heart.