The Mythopoetic Path – A Road Less Traveled

There is an age old battle between the rational and irrational, the logical view versus an artistic or symbolic one. Jung talks of a “Mythopoetic Imagination,” which he saw as severely lacking in our modern culture.  It is what often engages us on  the Jungian path, which stands in stark contrast to our daily & mundane realities. Watch this brief video from our 2nd Red Book seminar (AJC #11) where Dr. Murray Stein introduces the idea of the Mythopoetic Journey. As always, your comments are welcome… ____________________________ ____________________________
Enhanced by Zemanta

Continue Reading 4 Comments

Global Politics, Obama, & Transcendent Function: A Jungian Perspective?

Share your thoughts! In September the Asheville Jung Center has ambitious plans to host a conference titled “Symbols and Individuation in Global Politics”.  In preparation, I’ve been reading  Anyaten Sen’s “Identity and Violence”, Ortega y Gassett, and a panel discussion by Singer, Meador, and Samuels (Panel: The transcendent function in society) from the April 2010 issue of Journal of Analytical Psychology.  It is a thought provoking article. Let me begin with a question.  Do Jungians and the field of Analytical Psychology  have something unique to offer in the arena of politics, political science, and political discourse?  Of course, Jungians are entitled, indeed obligated, to participate in the political process.  But is there a Jungian perspective on these matters? Singer, Meador, and Samuels examined the transcendent function and specifically explore the proposition that certain individuals (for example, President Obama) carry the transcendent function in ways that may promote resolution of cultural complexes.  Such figures may help society unify apparent opposites. The transcendent function is that psychological mechanism through which apparent opposites are unified.  Jung compared the transcendent function to its mathematical equivalent: “There is nothing mysterious or metaphysical about the term “transcendent function.”  it means a psychological function comparable in it’s way to a mathematical function[1] of the same name, which is a function of real and imaginary numbers.  The psychological “transcendent function” arises from the union of conscious and unconscious content.” (The Transcendent Function, Jung 1959) Individuals tend to identify with one aspect of a polarity while relegating the other aspect to the unconscious.  The transcendent function is at work when the individual reconciles such opposing elements in their psyche.  There is a distinguished history of transcendent function within political theory.  Hegel’s dialectical approach proposed a such a motor of history and politics that consisted of an endless clash of opposites resolved by a synthesis.  His use of the word aufhebung, often translated as sublated, connotes abolished, preserved, and transcended in a single word.  Hegel may have intended to ambiguate the idea.  This is reminiscent of Jung’s characterization of symbol as “the best possible expression for a complex fact not yet clearly apprehended by consciousness.” During the election cycle of 2008 there appeared to be a collective stirring of such dialectal tensions.  There seemed to be opposing forces marshaling everywhere.   There were rabid gun rights advocates who seemed to feel they were under siege and  liberal activists who vilified the previous administration as a reign of terror worth of epic tales like “Lord of the Rings” or “Star Wars”.  Countless other examples could be cited of seemingly deep rifts that were more evident during the 2008 election season.   An unlikely figure, Barack Obama, emerged from this milieu and galvanized people across the political spectrum.  Thomas Singer opined that President Obama “…has the potential to embody in his being a transcendent function that might point to real reconciliation and healing of the entrenched cultural complexes that divide Black and White communities in America… Some gifted individuals …actually carry the transcendent function for the group…” (Singer 2006, pp. 26-27) There is little doubt that Barack Obama demonstrates the capacity to arouse strong passion.  He resonates with people from different countries and cultures.  People are drawn to him.  Celebrity accounts for some of this allure.  When President Obama visited Asheville earlier this year, even his ardent detractors were caught up in the excitement about sightings around town.  His celebrity seemed to dampen the usual fiery discourse seeming to unify opposing parties.  However, this should not be confused with reconciliation or the exercise of the transcendent function. There may something useful in considering leaders like President Obama as carriers of the transcendent function since this serves to remind us of the enormous value of transcending any opposites, whether intra-psychic or within the crucible of socio-cultural differences.  But there are other reasons for caution. Displacing individual psychological functions onto persons like Obama are a form of infantile wish fulfillment of the sort Freud exposed in  “The Future of an Illusion”.  Individuation is personal, as is the transcendent function that supports it.  Extrapolating to the realm of politics imperils the individuation process.  Psychological contents that we project, especially upon charismatic leaders like Obama, are robbed of some of their energy.  This can reduce the chances that they will break through to consciousness.  Cultural complexes are not exempt from such obfuscating maneuvers. The individual is summoned to use the transcendent function as a vehicle for perpetual growth and adaptation. Logicians might object to the idea of leaders carrying the transcendent function because it reflects an error of logical type.  A classic example of such an error may be helpful. “This statement is false.” (If the statement is true, it is false, and if it is false, then it is true, and so on.) Such paradoxes are resolved by recognizing that the actual truth value of the statement is of a different logical type than the statement itself. A similar disquiet emerges from the effort to extrapolate a function of the individual psyche (the transcendent function) to the sociopolitical arena.  The truth and explanatory power of the transcendent function when applied to the individual is different than when it is applied to the polis. The two are of different logical types. (see Russell & Whitehead or Bateson). Whether or not President Obama carries the transcendent function for cultural complexes he clearly activates psychological elements for individuals and for the masses.  It is an intriguing idea to consider what role figures such as Obama play for society at large and individuals in their own political (& psychological) development We are eager to generate discussion about the symbols and and other topics related to global politics as we approach the September conference.  What do you think about the proposition that President Obama carries the transcendent function for various cultural complexes?  We encourage you to share your thoughts concerning what (if anything) Jungians have to offer politics and political science. Len Cruz
[1] For an infinite series a1 + a2 + a3 +⋯, a quantity sn = a1 + a2 +⋯+ an, which involves adding only the first n terms, is called a partial sum of the series. If sn approaches a fixed number S as n becomes larger and larger, the series is said to converge. In this case, S is called the sum of the series. An infinite series that does not converge is said to diverge. In the case of divergence, no value of a sum is assigned.  An example of a convergent series is 1 + ½ + ¼ + ⅛ … that converges upon the solution 2.

Continue Reading 5 Comments

Jung’s Betrayal of Father Victor White (Catholic Priest)

Image via Wikipedia

This week’s blog is the conclusion of Murray Stein’s lecture on Betrayal, given at Jungian Odyssey 2010.  In it he looks at the intense friendship and later dramatic breakup of Carl Jung and Father Victor White.

If you watch the performance of The Jung-White Letters (now available on DVD), featuring Paul Brutsche in the role of C.G. Jung and John Hill as Victor White, O.P., you will witness the trajectory of a relationship begun in the summer of 1945 just after the end of WWII with high hopes and enthusiasm for collaboration between the psychologist on the one side and the Roman Catholic theologian on the other. The arc of their collaboration and friendship rises with rapid acceleration to a zenith (around 1948), then begins to flounder when they enter into a more earnest exchange of views on the nature of God and on the Roman Catholic doctrine of evil as privatio boni (1949-1955), and finally lose its basis and falls into severe disarray and finally into a rupture around what Victor White perceived as a betrayal and Jung then responded to as an unwawarrented attack from White on his integrity. The causal agent of White’s sense of betrayal was Jung’s publication of Answer to Job. “I wonder what induced you to publish it; when you gave me the manuscript to read you were so emphatic that you would not!” (Lammers, p. 259), White writes bitterly after the book was published and translated into English. Earlier he had found the work fascinating, but when he had to answer pointed questions about its contents from his priestly colleagues and his Catholic followers and analysands, he became extremely uncomfortable and felt that Jung had cut the ground out from under him with the publication of this heterodox work.

Certainly from a Roman Catholic theological perspective rooted in the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas, which White knew backwards and forewards and had taught to seminarians for many years, Jung’s views were completely indefensible and out of bounds. How could he, a priest, work with Catholic students and analysands, when the founder of the psychology he was using and had been advocating was putting forward a view of God and the Bible and what must be done by modern men and women that so utterly contradicted what the Church would ever condone? White found himself strangely in the position of Job when betrayed by God – the very basis of his livelihood and professional existence was pulled out from under his feet. Unlike Job, however, he vented his rage with the transference object, C.G. Jung, and separated himself from him, going his own way: “It seems that I am destined to be a wanderer & as homeless physically as I am spiritually.” (ibid.) Ironically, Jung repeated almost exactly with his Answer to Job the very thing he had been dealing with so passionately in the book itself – betrayal.

Perhaps it was inadvertant. From White’s side, it must have seemed like the betrayal of a faithful and pious man (i.e., himself) at the hands of a mistakenly idealized transference object (i.e., Jung). Jung retorted to White’s letter of accusation saying that he had never promised such a thing: “Should I set the light of such an insight ‘under a bushel’?” he cries out. (Lammers, p. 261) He was burdened with a message for humanity, which he felt was urgently needed in the time when the world was on the verge of catastrophic splitting and destruction. He was advocating for consciousness, for individual responsibility, for maturity. Only under such advances in humanity would the world survive, he felt. And White was trying to protect an illusion that robbed people of their initiative, diminished their consciousness of individual responsibility, and had been helpless to prevent the European nations from entering into two horrific wars in the 20th Century.

As Jung looked at the world, the Christian religion, as it had been presented and lived to this point in Europe, was not adequate to contain the powerful splitting tendencies at work in history. It simply hid people’s heads in the sand and foolishly let them believe that everything would come out alright in the end since a good God is in control of history. For Jung, the example of Jesus Christ taught the opposite – the image of the wholly good God is shattered by betrayal, on the cross and ends in tragedy. People have to grow up and take responsibility for history and for the planet and not wait passively for a good God to put things right. One must take a less naïve view of God. This is the message of Answer to Job.

I do believe that Victor White achieved wisdom and did not fall into cynicism as a result of his betrayal at the hands of Jung. In the end he was able to see Jung’s person more clearly, for better and for worse, without casting him utterly aside. The transference object was broken and a new consciousness had space to dawn in him. In a final exchange of letters shortly before White’s death from inoperable cancer in 1960, both men showed gratitude for what they had learned from the other. They had separated but not become antagonists or enemies. Splitting was overcome in favor of holding together the opposites and achieving object wholeness. This is the psychological basis of wisdom.

-Lammers, A. (ed.) 2005. The Jung-White Letters. London: Routledge.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Continue Reading 7 Comments

The Age of the Holy Spirit: Transcending the polarities of God the Father and God the Son

We recently released a powerful theatrical drama of Carl Jung and Victor White wrestling profoundly with the natures of God, satan, good and evil.  The 90 minute dramatic piece is followed by 2 hours of Dr. Murray Stein lecturing on these topics out of Zurich.  In this weeks 7 minute video blog below, Dr. Stein answers the question “what did Jung mean by the age of the Holy Spirit?”  Jung saw an evolution of the tension of opposites being transcended into the fullness of the Holy Spirit.  He starts with the Old Testament “God the Father,” then progresses to the New Testament “God the Son.”  These plolarities are eventually transcended into the “Holy spirit”  Watch this brief video piece as Dr. Stein describes how the “Age of the Holy Spirit” comes into being.
____________________________ ____________________________
Enhanced by Zemanta

Continue Reading No Comments

Wilderness of Childhood: Adventure and Creativity

WILDERNESS OF CHILDHOOD: Adventure and Creativity I tore an essay by Michael Chabon out of the July 31, 2009 issue of The Week magazine nearly a year ago and retrieved it from a stack of magazines early this morning.  The essay first appeared in the New York Review of Books<> under the title “Manhood for Amateurs: The Wilderness of Childhood”.  Chabon begins by describing the joy and wonder of explorations in the Wilderness of Childhood.  For some of us it was a real wilderness of varying degrees of tameness.  For me, it sometimes consisted of nothing more than riding my bicycle eight to ten miles to South Miami where my brother and I fished for gar along the banks of canals and hooked each other as often as the stolid fish. In the Wilderness of my youth, development hadn’t pushed large tracts of strawberries or sugar cane deeper into the Everglades. The Wilderness of a child is devoid of adults.  Children’s writers understand this.  There is a realm of childhood wherein adults have been expelled.  Children’s writers like C.S. Lewis, Charles Schultz, and Paul Pullman understand.  Apart from the watchful and too often stultifying view of adults a child encounters the Wilderness in which she engages the adventure of her life. Contemporary urban or suburban, American children may miss the joy of  Wilderness.  They are victims of our collective fears of abductions, preventable injuries, drug abuse, and more.  Parents are more determined than ever to provide children every available opportunity to thrive, learn, and excel.  Given such vigilant attention, there is little room left for Wilderness.  The Wilderness of childhood hasn’t been civilized as much as it’s been strained of nearly all traces of danger and unpredictability. According to Chabon, our children have become “…cult objects to us, to precious to be risked. At the same time, they have become fetishes, the objects of an unhealthy and diseased fixation.  And once something is fetishized, capitalism steps in and finds a way to sell it.” Chabon wonders about the impact of closing down the Wilderness upon children’s imagination.  Perhaps the answer is glimpsed when we see children dining with their parents at the Rain Forest Cafe or visiting Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  Those of us who never let our children out of our site, who schedule our children’s activities, who strive to enrich them, may unwittingly be extinguishing the sparks of adventure that can later ignite into flames of creative inspiration.  From Wilderness beginnings where dangers lurked in the shadows behind tree trunks and sticks became rifles come novels, films, inventions, and new business ventures. Jung’s Red Book created a stir among Jungians.  His inner explorations and his artistry are a torrent of illumination.  Below are two paragraphs from Frank McLynn’s book Carl Gustav Jung (St. Martin’s Press). “At around the age of four Jung developed a morbid fascination with death and corpses: he was fascinated by the dead body of a four-year-old boy found near the Rhine Falls and, clearly — Jungians would say — at the unconscious level, wished he was that boy. Accident proneness was much in evidence. Firstly he fell downstairs, then he fell against the leg of a stove, scarring himself so badly that the wound was still visible in his senior year at Gymnasium. It is a familiar idea that accident-prone children tend to have problems with their mother and ‘self-destruct’ because of rage against the nurturer who has failed them. The preoccupation with the corpses also fits the scenario of rage against the mother. “More serious than the falls was an accident on the Rhine bridge at Neuhausen when the child Carl Gustav had one leg under the railing and was about to slip through when the maid caught him. Jung himself attributed these untoward events to an unconscious suicidal urge or a kind of fatal resistance to life in this world. But while still alive and an international figure he explained his `corpse preoccupation’ as simply a means of trying to accommodate to the idea of death.” This is not a childhood without a measure of Wilderness. And here are two more paragraphs from the first chapter of McLynn’s book. “It was just before he went to school that he had one of the most significant dreams of his life; although Jung claimed this occurred when he was aged three or four, clinical evidence points to five or six as the more likely time. “In the dream Jung was in a meadow near Laufen castle and discovered an underground passageway. He descended and in a subterranean chamber found a kind of altar or king’s throne on which stood what he thought at first was a tree trunk, some twelve to fifteen feet high and about two feet thick. The object was made of skin and naked flesh, with a rounded head and a single eye on the very top of the head. Later he would recognize the object as a ritual phallus. He was awoken by his mother’s voice, as it were from outside, crying out, `That is the maneater!’” Jung is not accompanied by adults on his subterranean adventure, and, perhaps this prepared him for the solitary explorations he would undertake in later years.   His mothers voice, an adult voice, retrieves him from the adventure. Let yourself recall the Wilderness realms of your own childhood, and if you can bring yourself to do so, release a child to have an encounter with their wilderness.  We can scarcely predict where this leads. Chabon closes his essay this way: “Art is  form of exploration, of sailing off into the unknown alone, heading for those unmarked places on the map.  If children are not permitted–not taught–to be adventurers and explorers as children, what will become of the world of adventure, of stories, of literature itself?” Len Cruz

Continue Reading 1 Comment

Betrayal: A Way to Wisdom? -by Murray Stein

Betrayal is a hard topic to look at and hold onto for any length of time.  It engenders some  of our most intense emotions.  In this week’s blog, Murray Stein dives into the Christian Scripture and how it deals with betrayal in the Book of Job and the Gospel story.  The following is an excerpt from Dr. Stein’s recent lecture at Jungian Odyssey 2010 in Switzerland: We should not be so surprised by the behavior of the current bankers and money people. In the Christian scripture, the most infamous example of betrayal is Judas, the disciple who handled the finances for the devoted group of disciples around Jesus. In his act of betrayal, when he “delivered up” (in Latin this is expressed by the word tradere, from which descends the English word “betray”) the Lord to the Romans, he displayed for posterity the archetypal image of the flawed Moneyman. Wisdom counsels caution when sitting with people who deal with money. It can be a short step from trust to cynicism when one considers the betrayal behavior of human beings in possession of power through the ages. Power corrupts integrity, as does money, and so does desire in all its forms and manifestations. Desire reaches for gratification, and all too often it abuses the trust placed in position and authority. The current fierce controversy burning through the Catholic Church regarding the trust misplaced in predatory priests, who have abused their sacrosanct positions for sexual pleasures at the expense of children, has led more than a few people to question clerical sincerity at all levels and in all places. Many are leaving the church as a result, and with feelings that can lead to cynicism, sneering angrily at all allusions to any possible goodness in human motives. Especially the abused who have now risen up and are calling for transparency are filled with rage. Will the traumas inflicted upon them as children and youths drive them ineluctably into sheer cynicism? We must recognize that the benefits of the idealizing transference are hard to resist by its beneficiaries, whether they be priests, analysts, weather newscasters, a Miss or Mister Swiss (or America), golf champions, or just simple men or women who are admired and loved too well. Transference objects, be they gods or humans, are dangerous to keep around because of the trust we place in them. The cynic is one who knows this all too well, having been deeply wounded and unwilling to let go of the pain inflicted, but rather hangs on to it and reinterprets the world through the eyes of mistrust, even paranoia. Is there another possible outcome? Can betrayal lead to wisdom instead of to cynicism? This is a possibility I wish to consider, and to that end propose the following: Betrayal shatters images that consciousness has built up into seemingly reliable structures in which one can place faith and trust. Out of this shattering of trusted images, which leads to profound darkness and despair, a light of new consciousness may emerge that we would call wisdom. “In God We Trust” If we take betrayal to the ultimate – its archetypal apex – we have to consider the greatest betrayal of them all, the betrayal of a blameless man by God Himself. I must confess that it will forever remain a wonder to me that the Biblical redactors would allow what appears to be such a subversive work into the canon. Doesn’t this book blatantly question the faith and trust the community is supposed to place in the Lord with whom they have an agreed upon Covenant, a sacred contract of mutuality? Here is the problem. In the fifth Book of the Pentatuch, Deuteronomy, the Lord swears for all to hear: “And because you hearken to these ordinances, and keep and do them, the Lord your God will keep with you the covenant and the steadfast love which he swore to your fathers to keep; he will love you, bless you, and multiply you; he will also bless the fruit of your body and the fruit of your ground, your grain and your wine and your oil, the increase of your cattle and the young of your flock, in the land which he swore to your fathers to give you. You shall be blessed above all peoples.” (Deut. 7:12-14). This is the promise made by God to Israel. In The Book of Job, however, the Lord unaccountably takes a contrary position. First he praises his servant Job as faultless, hence his enviable prosperity as represented by his ten children, his thousands of sheep, camels, oxen, and she-asses, and his many servants. He is the richest man of the east, and the Lord is pleased to have kept his promise as stated in the Covenant above. But when the wily Satan challenges Job’s sincerity, God easily yields to his doubting thoughts and to Satan’s seduction: “Behold, he is in your power; only spare his life” (Job 2:9). Therewith he delivers his faithful servant Job over into the hands of the archetect of ruin and destruction who is now going to put him to the test. Job has done nothing to call for this unfair trial. Is this not a betrayal of the Covenant? So what is the Bible trying to say with the inclusion of The Book of Job? Let’s remember that The Book of Job belongs to what in Biblical Studies is called Wisdom Literature. We need to consider, therefore, the role of betrayal in the attainment of wisdom. Jung’s “Answer to Job” In his astonishing late work, Answer to Job, Jung draws some startling conclusions from the placement of The Book of Job in the Biblical canon.  Jung puts himself in the position of a psychotherapist listening to a patient’s story. The protagonist, Job, presents himself as an utterly pious man, innocent of any conscious or unconscious faults or sins whatsoever. God agrees with this assessment. As He looks down upon his servant from his heavenly throne, He praises him as a perfect example of virtue and obedience to the laws of the covenant, a wholly pious and blameless man. Satan, the Lord’s sly interlocutor, challenges this perception and offers to put it to the test. He claims that if God’s servant Job is stripped of his possessions, his cozy family, his health and all that has gone into his rich and successful life he will turn cynical, he will curse God, and he will betray his faith and turn his back on the Lord. So God takes the bait and lets Satan do his worst, save only that he spare Job’s life. And thus the horrible story unfolds. Job loses his children, his entire wealth, his very health, and at this point his wife tells him to curse God and die. He refuses and declares in the famous lines: “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at last he will stand upon the earth; and after my skin has been thus destoryed, then from my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see on my side, and my eyes shall behold, and not another.” (Job 19: 25-27) To his friends who come and advise him to confess his sins, arguing that he is being punished for some breaches in his supposed righteous conduct, he turns a deaf ear and stubbornly defends his innocence and faultlessness. Finally the Lord Himself steps into the picture and puts on a great display of majesty and power, showing Job his pitiful smallness as a man compared to His supreme authority as God Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth. Job is silenced. He does not raise the slightest protest or objection to what the Lord has done to him and in no way does he voice an accusation of betrayal on God’s part. Rather, he silently receives this show of power in all humility, after which God restores his wealth, gives him a set of new children, and puts things back in order for him. As Jung the psychotherapist listens to this story, he becomes enraged. He experiences what Michael Fordham called a syntonic countertransference. He speaks up for Job’s repressed feelings of anger and outrage at being so unwarrantedly played with by God. As a deeply tuned and empathic psychotherapist, Jung registers the unconscious feelings of Job, and in his impassioned text he voices them boldly and without reservation. Going a step further in his role as psychoanalyst, he diagnoses this Deity as being dissociated from his omniscience, as split off from his anima (“Sophia”) and from Eros, and as abysmally unconscious and lacking in integration as a personality. Basically, he depicts the Lord of The Book of Job as exhibiting the features of a narcissistic or borderline personality, lacking in reflection and the capacity to contain his impulses, and totally incapable of empathizing with the troubles inflicted by his own left hand (aka Satan) on his victim. In other words, the Lord is made out by Jung to be the Great Betrayer and Job, an innocent victim, the betrayed. And this makes him very angry. He is in the grips of a profound countertransference reaction, and he lets fly with all his emotion. (For this display of raw emotion, Victor White took Jung to task and called it “childish” and a “venting of spleen.”) What happens to Job is not fair, so how can justice be served? Jung asks. God must be held to account. This is the surprising turn of events, unanticipated by the Lord who thought that only Job was being tested, whereas in reality He too is under scrutiny. Justice is demanded, compensation, a balance of accounts. Yes, Job has a replacement family and a new fortune, but this can hardly make up for what he lost. Job may have survived, but now justice must still be done and a new consciousness born. To this end, God the Betrayer must be made to suffer precisely what He has inflicted on the human being, Job. God must become conscious, and the only way to consciousness is through an equivalent experience. Therefore, God must suffer what Job has suffered, namely betrayal of the deepest and most devestating sort. And God must do this to Himself, since no-one could of course do this to Him. Consequently, God incarnates Himself in a man, as Jesus of Nazareth. Jung interprets the story of the New Testament as a direct reaction to the betrayal inflicted on Job. Jesus, the incarnation of God, will experience what Job was made to experience, and through this suffering God will satisfy the requirement of justice and also become conscious. The experiences of betrayal that Jesus is put through – not only that of Judas, which is quite minor by comparison to the betrayal by God as expressed in the words “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” uttered on Golgotha – are God’s sufferings in parallel to Job’s, and these comprise the “answer to Job.” Jesus is the Savior of God in this reprise of the story, not mankind. Like Job, Jesus survives the betrayal in that he resurrects and ascends to heaven. So in neither case does the story descend into cyncism and to complete breakdown of faith and trust, to a vision of reality that is devoid of trustworthiness and in which there is no redemption. According to Jung, God should have attained to wisdom through this experience of betrayal. A psychologist, however, must ask: Are these outcomes satisfactory? Do they convey psychological truth? Or are they illusory, defensive, and a mere flimsy patchwork placed over the deep wound of betrayal? Jung the psychotherapist does not buy into the view that all ends well in these parallel narratives. The betrayal is too deep. (In his writings, Jung rarely speaks of the resurrection and the ascension. Easter is not his favorite holiday. Good Friday is more convincing.) For Jung, who is listening to the story of the Bible unfold from his psychotherapeutic chair, the story of Job ends with the revelation of God’s awesome power that silences the human, and the story of Jesus concludes on the note of betrayal cried out from the cross. He will not be drawn into an illusory solution, a folie a deux with the patient that says everything is OK when in fact it is not. As a psychotherapist, he insists on staying with the nigredo state until it transforms from within. No magical solutions allowed, no easy escapes, no defensive flights into fantasy. The tragedy of betrayal must be fuly digested before it can transform into wisdom. So Jung presses on – again, not as a theologian but as a clinician. One has to come to a state of consciousness that can positively accept and contain evil alongside the good. To simply flee into the good is to set up what Don Kalsched, following Fordham, has called a defense of the self, that is, a defensive structure that is meant to protect the soul from the insult of deep betrayal but does this job at a price too high. The naïve believer in this story’s happy outcome gets stuck in the defense of religious belief in the Good and so cannot cope with the evil within and without. This is a trap with enormous consequences for the individual and for society, as we see in our fundamentalistic age. It isolates the soul from life and from further experience. The consequence is in this sense suicidal. Jung wanted something better for his patient. He wanted to preserve the possibility for life, and to that end he advocated going further into the suffering. Betrayal shatters the precious and often sacrosanct images a person has lived by, hoped in, found guidance from, and trusted. The idealized transference object is broken, and another reality is presented, a reality that shows the shadow beside the persona, the depths of pathology in the human condition alongside its nobility and glory, the destructive element in God beside the creative, the hateful beside the loving. It is a hard vision to bear, but it is the only way to go on from betrayal toward wisdom and to further life. The theological image resulting from this psychotherapeutic analysis and treatment as espoused by Jung is a vision of God as a union of opposites. God is to be seen as a complexio oppositorum, a unified complexity that includes good and evil. I will close with a story that for me illustrates so well the passage from betrayal through darkness to wisdom. “By the time he was fifteen, Elie Wiesel was in Auschwitz…[where a] teacher of Talmud befriended him… One night the teacher took Wiesel back to his own barracks, and there, with the young boy as the only witness, three great Jewish scholars – masters of Talmud, Halakhah, and Jewish jurisprudence – put God on trial, creating, in that eerie place, ‘a rabbinic court of law to indict the Almighty.’ The trial lasted several nights. Witnesses were heard, evidence was gathered, conclusions were drawn, all of which issued finally in a unanimous verdict: the Lord God Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth, was found guilty of crimes against creation and humankind. And then, after what Wiesel describes as an ‘infinity of silence,’ the Talmudic scholar looked at the sky and said ‘It’s time for evening prayers,’ and the members of the tribunal recited Maariv, the evening service.” (Brown, p. vii) References Brown, R.Mc. 1995. Introduction to The Trial of God by Elie Wiesel. New York: Schocken Books, pp. vii-xvix. Jung, C.G. 1952. Answer to Job. In CW 11. Lammers, A. (ed.) 2005. The Jung-White Letters. London: Routledge.
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Continue Reading 16 Comments

Missed It By That Much

Missed It By That Much Len Cruz, MD Those who are familiar with the television show, “Get Smart” recognize the source of the title.  Maxwell Smart, a hapless secret agent would justify his obvious missteps with the phrase, Missed it by that much! During yesterday’s Red Book conference with Dr. Murray Stein, there were too many gold nuggets to even attempt a summary.  Instead, I chose one that Dr. Stein illustrated by recounting one of Jung’s dreams.  I’ll begin with a shortened version Jung’s dream as recounted by Dr. Stein. Jung and his father are in a mosque.  They find themselves kneeling and beginning to bow.  Evidently, Jung’s father bows fully allowing his head to make contact with the floor.  However, Jung stops within a millimeter of the floor.  He will not permit himself to bow completely. (Missed it by that much!) Yesterday Dr. Stein suggested that in Jung’s later years Jung stated that he did not believe but he knew. This may reflect Jung’s integration of the figure of Philemon a sort of prophet with whom he had engaged in fertile relationship for years.  According to Dr. Stein, the famous dream described above reflected Jung having outgrown a childish faith.  Soul had invited Jung to offer obedience to the gods, an exhortation he refused.  He argues with this anima figure and refuses to offer unqualified, blind obedience.   Instead, Jung proposed that if the gods wanted him to obey they must do something for him.  Dr. Stein suggested that this is evidence of Jung’s mature faith, a fully flowering faith founded upon knowing and not believing. At an earlier point in the conference Dr. Stein explained that Jung did not oppose faith but that the German word to which he objected might be better translated as belief, the experience of believing in something because you have been told to do so or because it has been transmitted to you.  Belief, in this context, is the untested, un-lived version of knowing. Dr. Stein connected his ideas about Jung’s mature faith to the modern theological trend known collectively as “Process Theology”.  Anyone interested learning more about Process Theology may find these two books helpful, “Process and Reality (A. N. Whitehead) and “Process Theology: An Introductory Exposition” (John Cobb & David Ray Griffin).  What a brilliant insight Dr. Stein makes in suggesting that Jung’s later writings such as “Answer to Job” presage the movement that has come to be known as “Process Theology”.  An exceptional summary and commentary on “Answer to Job” by J. Marvin Spiegelman can be found online at .  It is no surprise that Dr. Stein, who is divinity trained (and possibly divinely trained), should make such a clear connection between Jung’s mature faith perspective and the process theologians.   However, let me propose a different rendering of Jung’s dream.  Jung may have missed it by that much! Dr. Stein discouraged the reader of the Red Book from viewing the material as some channeled work. Jung’s ego not only remained intact, it was actively engaged with the interior figures.  There was no merger, no suspension of ego into some passive vessel, no idle recipient of channeled experiences.   To the contrary, Jung was contentious, argumentative and even rude at times.  While this stance toward his interior figures may have permitted a fuller, deeper exposition of their insights and instruction, it may also have obstructed a different kind of knowing.  That stance also reflects an unyielding, willful, recalcitrant feature in Jung that earlier perhaps contributed to his split with Freud and delayed reconciliation with Father Victor White.  Perhaps the dream and that single millimeter are simultaneously a testament to Jung’s mature faith and his inability to offer a complete surrender into the mystical union.  It was a bridge he could not cross. Jung’s tenacious grip upon the egoic functions that allowed him to record such a rich travel log as the Red Book may have been the ultimate barrier to the experience of the mystic.  We think of Rumi’s poetry as a different sort of travel log from one who became lost in a merged state with the divine. This brings us back to Jung’s dream.  It is at once a testament by a man who has done the arduous work of soul building and one who had not found a way to step willingly into complete surrender.  Jung is a post-Promethean man.  He has received the fire of illumination and steps out fearlessly to claim his rights as an image bearer of God.  He sustains his fortitude when he declines soul’s request for his obedience to the gods.  Earlier, Philemon counseled Jung to always keep his eye on this figure (soul) and never lose sight of her.  But Philemon also advised Jung to beware since she would lead him astray.  Jung’s defiance to yield that last millimeter pays heed to Philemon’s counsel.   I propose that single millimeter of difference between Jung and his father extends in myriad directions.  It suggests an Oedipal defiance that conflates his earthly father and heavenly Father.  The drama of that single millimeter is like an harmonic in music, akin to an integer multiple of an earlier note in Jung’s life when he had his falling out with Freud.  And again, it is as if that millimeter he withholds is an overtone of an earlier conflict with Fr. Victor White. Jung exemplifies the Übermensch  Nietzsche glorifies.  In addition, the endless recurrence of which Nietzsche was so fond, seems confirmed by the harmonic resonance between Jung and his succession of opponents (earthly father, Freud, White, heavenly Father).  Jung claims his place in relation to the gods and will not demure.  He is reminiscent of Camus’ Sisyphus.  Camus imagines this rebellious, miscreant trickster differently as he carries out his sentence of rolling a stone up a hill only to have it roll down the other side and starting over again.  Camus turns away from suicide by rendering this mythopoetic figure as being happily defiant toward the gods who condemned him.  Jung’s refusal to yield that last millimeter conforms to Camus’ Sisyphus.  To parody the title of the 1967 hit Broadway musical, he was a Thoroughly Modern Mensch (not Millie). Sadly, Jung will not allow himself to recover the childlike realms of faith by offering a complete surrender.  It is tempting to wonder what might have occurred if Jung had descended one additional millimeter.  It is in that final millimeter that Jung reveals a profound struggle.  While not disputing Dr. Stein’s proposition that the millimeter reflects Jung’s mature claim upon his own divine attributes, I propose that the fateful millimeter is also an indication of the transcendent function falling short of its mark.  Perhaps it points to the unification of apparent opposites at a meta-level.  Can a person be simultaneously defiant as Jung is when he refuses refuses to descend one last millimeter and knowingly submit by offering himself as a living sacrifice to the gods (or God).  That sacrifice is akin to the one Jesus commits to in the garden in Gethsemane.  He knows his fate, he is fully developed as a Self, and he proceeds to surrender anyway.  Do not think that I am proposing some inflating identification with Jesus the Christ; I am not.  I am using His example to illustrate a point.  It may be the transcendent function failed Jung and in his final moments, he turned away from the mystical, merged state and chose to keep his bearings.  If he had plunged just a millimeter deeper perhaps he might have had nothing to show for his work but an exquisite love poem of the sort Rumi left us.  To Jung, who had faced his demons and realized that he was driven by the pursuit of honor, that might not have seemed enough. In Jung’s personal Twilight of the Idols he refrains from the callous, barren expression that Nietzsche arrives at but he seems unable to unify the rational, willful, fully developed man with the numinous, yielding, childlike man.  And so, it is in that last millimeter, that Jung truly may have Missed It By That Much. From “Thus Spake Zarathustra”-Nietzsche O man, take care! What does the deep midnight declare? “I was asleep— From a deep dream I woke and swear:— The world is deep, Deeper than day had been aware. Deep is its woe— Joy—deeper yet than agony: Woe implores: Go! But all joy wants eternity— Wants deep, wants deep eternity.”

Continue Reading 5 Comments

Jung’s Shattering Midlife Crisis: A Man’s Plunge into “The Way.”

Jung’s escalating conflict with Freud drives him to the conclusion that his life is dramatically off course and needs imminent change.   In 1913 Jung drops most all of his professional positions and prestige and enters a dark encounter with his soul. Watch this 8 minute video where Dr. Stein describes Jung’s wrestling with his inner demons and finding “The Way.”  This encounter with the unconscious led to his initial  writings in the “Red Book.” How have we had mid life major course corrections? How has your confrontation with your dark unconscious helped you discover your personal “Way”? We invite your thoughts and comments…. – Steven Buser, MD
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Continue Reading 1 Comment

Pathways to the Personal & Collective

Recent discussions about the movie AVATAR conducted in an online forum led me to the following thoughts.  What other films, pieces of literature, poetry, paintings or sculpture, or music that others have encountered that touched a plucked a chord in you while also making a “collective” chord vibrate? For example, the progression in “Adagio for Strings” by Samuel Barber evokes that effect. Another is “Herman Melville” by W H Auden. The first four lines stand alone for me in producing the effect. Towards the end he sailed into an extraordinary mildness, And anchored in his home and reached his wife And rode within the harbour of her hand, And went across each morning to an office As though his occupation were another island. Goodness existed: that was the new knowledge His terror had to blow itself quite out To let him see it; but it was the gale had blown him Past the Cape Horn of sensible success Which cries: ‘This rock is Eden. Shipwreck here.’ But deafened him with thunder and confused with lightning: — The maniac hero hunting like a jewel The rare ambiguous monster that had maimed his sex, Hatred for hatred ending in a scream, The unexplained survivor breaking off the nightmare — All that was intricate and false; the truth was simple. Evil is unspectacular and always human, And shares our bed and eats at our own table, And we are introduced to Goodness every day, Even in drawing-rooms among a crowd of faults; He has a name like Billy and is almost perfect But wears a stammer like a decoration: And every time they meet the same thing has to happen; It is the Evil that is helpless like a lover And has to pick a quarrel and succeeds, And both are openly destroyed before our eyes. For now he was awake and knew No one is ever spared except in dreams; But there was something else the nightmare had distorted — Even the punishment was human and a form of love: The howling storm had been his father’s presence And all the time he had been carried on his father’s breast. Who now had set him gently down and left him. He stood upon the narrow balcony and listened: And all the stars above him sang as in his childhood ‘All, all is vanity,’ but it was not the same; For now the words descended like the calm of mountains — — Nathaniel had been shy because his love was selfish — But now he cried in exultation and surrender ‘The Godhead is broken like bread. We are the pieces.’ And sat down at his desk and wrote a story. _______________________ Are there works that succeed at evoking a strong effect at the personal level while also opening you to the collective realm?  If so, share that with the group (where appropriate include the work or a hypertext link where others might find it.

Continue Reading No Comments

What’s in Your “Red Book”?

Carl Jung’s Red Book provides a window into his interior life and since its publication there has been intense interest and study of the it’s contents.  We live in an extraordinary time in which information is so accessible that if you are near a wi-fi network and have any one of dozens of devices in hand, you can secure an answer to a question almost instantly.  I am typing this on an iPad.  I was tempted to pause and look up some shocking comparisons between the typical number of pages read by a modern person compared to someone from Jung’s era.  But that would lead me astray.  It seems we are flooded with more information but take less time to contemplate or reflect on that information.   Like humus that enriches the soil, data and information must be allowed to compost, to decompose, to dissolve in order to be reconstituted as psychological substance. Is there an inverse function between the quantity of information we encounter and the depth to which it penetrates us?  The Red Book was one man’s effort to plumb his own depths.  Jung must have had substantial faith to devote himself for so long and with such committed self-examination.  The Red Book is a testament to Jung’s willingness to descend into his inner universe with faith that there would be riches waiting to be discovered. I doubt that I am the only therapist who spends his/her days honoring client’s processes while neglecting his own.  I feel disheartened when clients disregard or neglect their rich interior life.  Yet, I have no right to cast the first stone; too often, I do not practice what I preach. This is an invitation.  If you feel so moved, share an excerpt from your personal Red Book. Many of us have been enriched by Jung’s Red Book.  Words, drawings, photos, verse, or whatever speaks to (and from) your depths would be welcome.  Many more may be enriched by some examples of the sort of entries being made in a current Red Book. Maybe those excerpts from your personal Red Book will inspire others to give their interior explorations their proper due.

Continue Reading 22 Comments

Like Asheville Jung Center Asheville Jung Center on LinkedIn Asheville Jung Center on Twitter Asheville Jung Center on YouTube

Register your E-mail for
New Jungian Seminars and Exclusive Offers