Jung’s Red Book

From Carl Jung’s Red Book, in which I have merely dipped into. It requires preparation, which is where I am now.

The Red Book is an absolutely remarkable account in both words and paintings that Jung produced to document his ascent and descent into his soul and Self.

“I am weary, my soul, my wandering has lasted too long, my search for myself outside of myself. Now I have gone through events and find you behind all of them. For I made discoveries on my erring through events, humanity, and the world. I found men. And you, my soul, I found again, first in images within men and then you yourself. I found you where I least expected you. You climbed out of a dark shaft. You announced yourself to me in advance in dreams. They burned in my heart and drove me to all the boldest acts of daring, and forced me to rise above myself. You let me see truths of which I had no previous inkling. You let me undertake journeys, whose endless length would have scared me, if the knowledge of them had not been secure in you.

I wandered for many years, so long that I forgot that I possessed a soul. Where were you all this time? Which Beyond sheltered you and gave you sanctuary? Oh, that you must speak through me, that my speech and I are your symbol and expression! How should I decipher you?”

Jung, C. G.. The Red Book: A Reader’s Edition: (Philemon). W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition.

I think that the weariness that Jung speaks of here is the alienation, boredom and fatigue that affect so many of us, to varying degrees and at different times. We’re not sure what’s wrong, but something must be.

I found reference to this passage, which I had read and noted before while reading the Red Book, in a wonderful book that sets out the individuation process in a very personal and accessible way. I will be commenting on this book further, since it is an invaluable aid and entrance into individuation – the ultimate process of psychological development. The book is: Wisdom Walking: Pilgrimage as a Way of Life by Gil Stafford and comes highly recommended by me, although I am relatively early into it.

We Need Another Jung

We need another Jung, not because Carl Gustav was inadequate, but because he opened up such a vast field, that we need to develop it further. And the times demand it.

“We are living in what the Greeks called the right time for a “metamorphosis of the gods,” i.e. of the fundamental principles and symbols. This peculiarity of our time, which is certainly not of our conscious choosing, is the expression of the unconscious man within us who is changing. Coming generations will have to take account of this momentous transformation if humanity is not to destroy itself through the might of its own technology and science.”

From The Undiscovered Self by C. G. Jung, Page 110

One of the major themes of my blog and my thinking is the primary importance of Carl Gustav Jung – his thinking and his scholarship.

For me, there is no doubt that he is one of the greatest thinkers of the last five hundred years, and one who has integrated a tremendous amount of thinking from the last few thousand years, as he developed his own ideas.

Many brilliant students of his, and of his ideas, have followed in his footsteps to expand and extend his ideas. Jung wrote so much, that mining that material, explaining it further, and extending it, is of enormous value.

But for anyone passionately in love with Jung and his ideas, you can’t help but be disappointed that his ideas are not more widely known and respected. Jung is critically important as a historical figure and he has fueled great advances in psychology, but psychology is still dominated by a materialist and “soulless” orthodoxy. Psychology wants to be respected as a science and that’s very important, but unfortunately contemporary science is animated (or not) by the materialist orthodoxy – physical matter came first and somehow the spark of consciousness arose, and there are some who even doubt that consciousness is real. For these scientists, we are essentially clever machines designed by self-replicating molecules acting randomly over time.

The New Age is another attempt (after the apparent failure of institutional religions) to move beyond this narrow perspective of existence and Jung is considered one of the fathers of the New Age. But the New Age is often simplistic and seen to be anti-science and more about “feeling good” in a flaky and self-indulgent way. Many serious intellectuals lump Jung in with that sensibility, so it’s hard for his ideas, that are much more serious and rigorous, to get traction in the broader culture.

I see the Jungian community as a vital and dynamic  one that is performing critical work for both individuals and society in general. New people are coming to Jungian thought and scholarship, but I am not sure how many younger people are entering Jungian scholarship. I have no doubt that Jungian thought and scholarship will continue to be a strong force in the world. There is too much of value for that ever to be lost.

But. I think the time has come for Jungian thought to take center stage in the world – or at least become a major part of the discussion. The world has entered a period of unprecedented disruption. We are building the future of the human race, while older structures are being dismantled, or simply collapse. This has been happening for over one hundred years and Jung has been both a witness and a participant in these fractured times. This evolution and revolution in humanity is bigger than any one person – even an intellectual giant such as Jung. He was summoned by the times, and I believe the current times will summon a new Jung – the next Jung.

I do not know where this woman or man will come from. And to be clear, I have no illusions that I have any direct connection to this person who may arrive any day or year now, or she may be many years away. I am hopeful that this person will arrive soon, and I want to contribute to this renaissance in Jungian thinking in any way I can. I come to this as a relative outsider with no formal education in psychology or Jungian thought. I am simply a passionate student of Jung and his ideas. I am convinced that his ideas will be fundamental in building this future of the human race.

I see that the next phase in the development of these ideas of Jung will require greater integration with scientific thought. This will come about not from a change in Jungian ideas but in a sea change in the notion of consciousness held by science. The seed of this change has been planted by a scientist you have almost certainly never heard of, or one whose importance has not yet been recognized by many people. I have no doubt that he has developed and is continuing to develop the beginning of a revolution that will remake our understanding of human consciousness and allow for Jung’s ideas to be understood and taken much more seriously by many more people. That will lead to astounding developments in psychology as well as many other fields, since human consciousness and psychology, along with philosophy and art, are really the underpinnings and bedrock of our lives.

This is a bold claim, but one that has percolated within me for some time. Everyone will have to judge all this on their own with their personal experience and discernment to guide them. The scientist who developed this theory is a credentialed scholar who works rigorously in a university setting. He is no crank, but a thoughtful and cautious scholar. He is a psychologist and a cognitive scientist who has arrived at his conclusions, which are really just a jumping off point, by studying evolution. I don’t think it is irony or simple coincidence that evolution, which I consider to be the central meaning and purpose of life, will be the engine of this revolution that I see in our future. It is also no irony or coincidence that evolution is, for some people, the central source of animosity and hostility between advocates of science and those of religion. The resolution of this hostility and the greater integration of religion and science will be both a symptom and a cause of this revolution.

Jung himself was profoundly interested in both a religious and a scientific approach to psychology and to life.

“My interests drew me in different directions. On the one hand I was powerfully attracted by science, with its truths based on facts; on the other hand I was fascinated by everything to do with comparative religion. […] In science I missed the factor of meaning; and in religion, that of empiricism.”

From Memories Dreams and Reflections by C. G. Jung Page 72

I believe that this new hypothesis will give us a revolution in our understanding of our lives and of our consciousness, as Jung explored so deeply.

I believe that human consciousness is much more important and fundamental to our lives as Jung set out in all his writing . This new hypothesis will make this clear and will pave the way for a much broader and deeper respect for the ideas of Carl Jung. Many of us do not require Jung’s ideas to be defended by science per se. Our own experiences and our view of reality are enough – we see the great sense that Jung makes and has made for our own lives. But many more people require a greater level of proof that has been offered so far. This new hypothesis will pave the way for many more people to take Jung much more seriously. This hypothesis will help to make sense of some of Jung’s most important ideas such as archetypes, the collective unconscious, individuation and the transcendent function. I have no doubt that it will lead to a renaissance in Jungian scholarship and ultimately in every field, including every field in science.

I will be taking this hypothesis much farther than the original author would dare to, because he has to be cautious in maintaining a scientific approach freer of the speculation that others can indulge. I have no evidence that this scientist is a Jungian or ready to speculate on all the possibilities that could flow from his hypothesis, but he is certainly aware of how significant his discovery could be and does speak of that. Ultimately his theory will be the beginning of a revolution, but one that will flow in many directions. I am excited about the possibilities for the Jungian approach to human psychology. It will allow us to make much greater sense of human consciousness, its history and its future, and for any student of Jung’s, that is an elixir that will be as intoxicating as it is enlightening. There will be much work to be done.

Jung wrote in the preface for Erich Neumann’s The Origins And History Of Consciousness:

(This book) “begins just where I, too, if I were granted a second lease of life, would start to gather up the disjecta membra of my own writings, to sift out all those “beginnings without continuations” and knead them into a whole. As I read through the manuscript of this book it became clear to me how great are the disadvantages of pioneer work: one stumbles through unknown regions; one is led astray by analogies, forever losing the Ariadne thread; one is overwhelmed by new impressions and new possibilities, and the worst disadvantage of all is that the pioneer only knows afterwards what he should have known before. The second generation has the advantage of a clearer, if still incomplete, picture; certain landmarks that at least lie on the frontiers of the essential have grown familiar, and one now knows what must be known if one is to explore the newly discovered territory.”

Neumann, Erich. The Origins And History Of Consciousness: Volume 118 (International Library of Psychology) . Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.

Jung himself recognized that there was much more work to be done in the fields he had planted. I think the time has come for the next Jung.

Consciousness is the fundamental “stuff” of the universe, and I have no doubt that science will have to acknowledge this fact sooner or later. This new hypothesis will lead to this revolution, as it becomes clear that it is proven by an evolutionary theory that almost everyone can agree upon as operating in the material world. Human consciousness and our experience of our consciousness, and everything that goes and comes along with it, is in for the exciting, yet challenging ride that Jung anticipated and studied more than any other human so far. I look forward to the next stage of this revolution – the seeds have been planted and now is the time for watering and fertilizing.

 

Music to Contemplate Life By

My newest musical obsession – A Winged Victory For The Sullen.

This is music to really listen to, while listening to your soul.

I particularly love their album Atomos.

I am a fan of ambient music, but usually in the background. This music works in the background and in the foreground.

Beautiful. Deep. Evocative. Magic.

I can’t resist posting one more.

Time to contemplate life, as it’s being lived – making it conscious.

The Individuation of Pooh Bear

I am not sure if Winnie the Pooh would have had to go through individuation, or whether he ever left knowing his Self, requiring the return through individuation. In any case, this poem by A. A. Milne, the author and creator of Winnie the Pooh, writes of the individuation process for me.

Spring Morning

Where am I going? I don’t quite know.
Down to the stream where the king-cups grow-
Up on the hill where the pine-trees blow-
Anywhere, anywhere. I don’t know.

Where am I going? The clouds sail by,
Little ones, baby ones, over the sky.
Where am I going? The shadows pass,
Little ones, baby ones, over the grass.

If you were a cloud, and sailed up there,
You’d sail on water as blue as air,
And you’d see me here in the fields and say:
“Doesn’t the sky look green today?”

Where am I going? The high rooks call:
“It’s awful fun to be born at all.”
Where am I going? The ring-doves coo:
“We do have beautiful things to do.”

If you were a bird, and lived on high,
You’d lean on the wind when the wind came by,
You’d say to the wind when it took you away:
“That’s where I wanted to go today!”

Where am I going? I don’t quite know.
What does it matter where people go?
Down to the wood where the blue-bells grow-
Anywhere, anywhere. I don’t know.

And I don’t know either.

I am editing this post because a week after I posted it, I synchronistically ran across this from Jung.

“The dreamer goes for a long walk, and finds a blue flower on the way.

To go for a walk is to wander along paths that lead nowhere in particular; it is both a search and a succession of changes.”

Carl Jung – Collected Works Volume 12, 101-102

Individuation indeed.

The poem comes from  A. A. Milne’s first book of poetry for children, When We Were Very Young, published in 1924. The book includes the poem “Teddy Bear”. This bear became Winnie the Pooh.

Another wonderful poem in the book further expresses the individuation process for me.

Halfway Down

Halfway down the stairs
is a stair
where i sit.
there isn’t any
other stair
quite like
it.
i’m not at the bottom,
i’m not at the top;
so this is the stair
where
I always
stop.

Halfway up the stairs
Isn’t up
And it isn’t down.
It isn’t in the nursery,
It isn’t in town.
And all sorts of funny thoughts
Run round my head.
It isn’t really
Anywhere!
It’s somewhere else
Instead!

In-between is a strange place to be. but one that I have occupied for much of my life I think. Milne is speaking of this “in-between” or liminal space I believe. I think more and more of us are finding ourselves in this place more often – at least some of the time. It is a place of possibility, but often not easy. Winnie the Pooh expressed Jungian thoughts – at least for me.

I still have the dog-eared copy of The World of Pooh from my childhood. That’s a good metaphor for the process of individuation as well.

 

 

Thought for the Day # 1

It occurs to me that with our deep evolution, humanity now evolves more in a year than it did in 1000 years, a hundred thousand years ago. Way more.

Buckle up. Go deep.

Ferris Bueller touched on this.

 

My Prediction for the Future

I have been saying this for the better part of a year. It came to me in a flash of intuition.

Take it for what it’s worth, but I can guarantee it’s truth. Don’t ask me how I know, but I do.

I usually get a disappointing eye-roll when I share this. I understand that reaction. The prediction seems trivial, but I think it is important.

I take no credit for the prediction.

The future of the human race and the planet:

“The good will get better, and the bad will get worse.”

I say this as an optimist. I am equally sure of this optimism for the future of humanity.

So the task before us is to acknowledge the bad, while focusing on the good. The good can and does include darkness and shadow – all part of our evolution.

The turbulence, messiness, and evolution continues.

Ursula K. Le Guin

Ursula K. Le Guin just died. She was an American novelist who set her stories in the worlds of science fiction and fantasy. She explored important ideas like gender, religion, politics and the individual’s place in society. She has been compared to Tolkein, the author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. That alone makes her worth checking out for me.She writes about big ideas and I regret that I have not discovered her before this. I intend to correct this.

The Left Hand of Darkness looks really interesting. It has a race of androgynous beings who choose their sex only for procreating, and the challenge of a person making contact with that alien world, and making sense of it. The link for this book brings you to Audible which sells audible performances of books. If you go there, you can listen to a five minute excerpt that sounds intriguingly Jungian in some respects. She is certainly plowing the same deep fields.

Margaret Atwood discusses Le Guin’s legacy in a piece in the Guardian.

Le Guin also wrote a well-regarded translation of the Tao Te Ching.

Sourceless

The way is empty, used,

but not used up.

Deep, yes! ancestral

to the ten thousand things.

 

Blunting edge,

loosing bond,

dimming light,

the way is the dust of the way.

 

Quiet,

yes, and likely to endure.

Whose child? born

before the gods.

 

Everything Lao Tzu says is elusive. The temptation is to grasp at something tangible in the endlessly deceptive simplicity of the words. Even some of his finest scholarly translators focus on positive ethical or political values in the text, as if those were what’s important in it. And of course the religion called Taoism is full of gods, saints, miracles, prayers, rules, methods for securing riches, power, longevity, and so forth—all the stuff that Lao Tzu says leads us away from the Way.

In passages such as this one, I think it is the profound modesty of the language that offers what so many people for so many centuries have found in this book: a pure apprehension of the mystery of which we are part.

Guin, Ursula K. Le. Lao Tzu: Tao Te Ching: A Book about the Way and the Power of the Way (Kindle Locations 263-275). Shambhala. Kindle Edition.

“A pure apprehension of the mystery of which we are part.” She is a kindred spirit for sure.

If you’re like me and want to read more of Le Guin, here are two suggested reading lists:

Oregonlive Le Guin Reading List

The Guardian Reading List

 

Creature Comfort

Why Jung?

Why depth psychology?

Why am I here?

Arcade Fire answer these questions in a fantastic song that sets out the modern human condition for so many.

Creature comfort – we look for comfort from the pain we feel. We look for that comfort, or making it painless, in all the band-aids of modern civilization. Distractions from the pain of living are what we seek. Carl Jung and depth psychology recognize that these creature comforts are no solution. And show what can be done to deal with the pain.

This is a song that at its heart is very sad and painful, yet it’s defiant and ultimately hopeful. The visuals are all about the stark contrast between light and dark. Brilliant.

But it leads to hard questions that can’t be ignored.

 

 

Creature Comfort
Some boys hate themselves
Spend their lives resenting their fathers
Some girls hate their bodies
Stand in the mirror and wait for the feedback
Saying God, make me famous
If you can’t just make it painless
Just make it painless
Assisted suicide
She dreams about dying all the time
She told me she came so close
Filled up the bathtub and put on our first record
Saying God, make me famous
If you can’t just make it painless
Just make it painless
It goes on and on, I don’t know what I want
On and on, I don’t know if I want it
On and on, I don’t know what I want
On and on, I don’t know if I want it
(On and on I don’t know what I want)
(On and on I don’t know if I want it)
(On and on I don’t know what I want)
(On and on I don’t know if I want it)
Some girls hate themselves
Hide under the covers with sleeping pills and
Some girls cut themselves
Stand in the mirror and wait for the feedback
Some boys get too much, too much love, too much touch
Some boys starve themselves
Stand in the mirror and wait for the feedback
Creature comfort makes it painless
Bury me penniless and nameless
Born in a diamond mine
It’s all around you but you can’t see it
Born in a diamond mine
It’s all around you but you can’t touch it
Saying God, make me famous
If you can’t just make it painless
Just make it painless
It’s not painless
She was a friend of mine, a friend of mine
And we’re not nameless, oh
It goes on and on, I don’t know what I want
On and on, I don’t know if I want it
On and on, I don’t know what I want
On and on, I don’t know if I want it
(On and on I don’t know what I want)
(On and on I don’t know if I want it)
(On and on I don’t know what I want)
Well if you’re not sure, better safe than sorry
Creature comfort, make it painless
Creature comfort, make it painless
We’re the bones under your feet
The white lie of American prosperity
We wanna dance but we can’t feel the beat
I’m a liar, don’t doubt my sincerity
Just make it painless
Creature comfort, make it painless
Na-na-na-na
Na-na-na na-na-na-na
(Na-na-na-na na-na-na)
(Na-na-na-na na-na-na)
Na-na-na na-na-na-na
Na-na-na na-na-na-na
(Na-na-na-na na-na-na)
Creature comfort, make it painless
Songwriters: Jeremy Gara / Regine Chassagne / Richard R Parry / Tim Kingsbury / William Butler / Win Butler
Creature Comfort lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

This song is all about the pain of living and the drive to escape from that pain.

“Some boys hate themselves
Spend their lives resenting their fathers
Some girls hate their bodies
Stand in the mirror and wait for the feedback”

– Men and woman both face the same pain. The pain comes from a deep place and so will the relief. That’s why Jung and depth psychology is such a powerful force. The relief cannot come from those band-aids just trying to cover up the pain in distractions.

“Saying God, make me famous
If you can’t just make it painless”

– The ultimate escape would seem to become famous – adored by millions. How couldn’t that lead to happiness or at least the pain would go away? Or would it? Many famous people are obviously in great pain, yet many people look to fame to soothe their souls.

– And if I can’t be famous, at least take away the pain.

“It goes on and on, I don’t know what I want
On and on, I don’t know if I want it”

– Life goes on and on, but why? I don’t know what I am here for? More pain?

“The white lie of American prosperity”

– We hope that the creature comforts of modern life will make it painless. We’re better off than ever before in material terms, yet the pain remains.

“Born in a diamond mine
It’s all around you but you can’t see it
Born in a diamond mine
It’s all around you but you can’t touch it”

– We’re born into a world that has the potential for diamonds – the diamond is a symbol of the whole self. For Carl Jung, individuation is the process to make the self whole – become that diamond.

– Can we make life painless?

“Saying God, make me famous
If you can’t just make it painless
Just make it painless

It’s not painless”

– I don’t think painless can be the goal of life. Pain cries out for meaning. And when we find that personal meaning and continue to live with that meaning in exploration, the pain recedes and becomes a source of evolution and growth. Pain that makes sense is not so painful.

Art continues to be a path pointing to our personal evolution. This song is deep, painful, joyful, and meaningful. I love it.

Evolution at the Margins

Evolution happens at the margins. It can happen when and where you least expect it. Other times you expect it, but in only one dimension – when or where, but not both. And who is a big part of it all. Those on the margin are almost always the drivers of evolution. How could it be any other way? If you’re part of the establishment, you almost certainly want to keep things relatively static to maintain your position.

Right now women in Iran are an evolutionary force. Women have almost certainly been one of the major forces of evolution the last century. Women are generally on the margin – or at least in some respects. This does not mean they are not powerful. In fact I think it can be argued that the margins are the source of greatest power. The leading edge of evolution is always at the margins and is often ignored by the establishment until the momentum is overwhelming.

Iran is seeing widespread protests that haven’t been matched since 2009. According to this BBC report, there is no central leadership to this opposition and the government if working to stifle the disruptions by restricting social media.

And women who do not follow the religious dress codes will no longer be subject to arrest according to this report. This is a new police policy and instead of detention, they will be offered “re-education” on Islamic values.

It’s not clear if this “re-education” is voluntary or not, but these two developments indicate to me that evolution is proceeding in Iran. Voices of tradition and the establishment everywhere should take heed – no wait a minute – go back to sleep. It’s only Iran. The margin is always on the move and never more so than now. Our own unconscious is really on the margin of our awareness and is it not the source of our psychological evolution? Art is on the margin because it is often our portal to greater and deeper awareness. It turns things around, or turns us around, and puts us in the liminal world beyond our normal or traditional understanding. Dreams are from beyond the margins and we meet them there.

Finally this all reminds me of one of the great metaphysical comedians, Steven Wright, who joked:

I’m a peripheral visionary – I can see into the future, but just way off to the side.

Way off to the side, on the margins, is precisely the source of our future. – our evolution.

Long live the margins! Long live those who show us those margins and coax or drag us beyond them. Long live evolution, because without it, there is no life. May 2018 usher in lots more evolution.

Our Age

We are now a people of billions of kingdoms. The atomization of humanity is very real, but far from complete. We remain united by love, by family, by society, by archetype, by the collective unconscious, and by our fundamental nature. Our dual nature of radical individualism, but within the legacy and reality of remaining embedded in humanity’s unity and oneness, is shaping us as individuals and as a species. Now is the most demanding and the most exciting time to be alive. Carl Jung did not use these words, but he recognized this time to be special – in its dangers and in its opportunities. As an optimist, I acknowledge the dangers, but see much more opportunity for our evolution – to be better – to be more human. To paraphrase Churchill, this is not the beginning of the end, but the end of the beginning. We all have a long road ahead of us.

Relish the journey. It is our destiny and cannot be avoided, or denied – it must be embraced, and celebrated. We are all sovereign kingdoms, but at the same time, we are all in this together.

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