Jung’s Dream of His Father, the Fishskin Bible, and Uriah as the “Highest Presence”

I am reposting this because it continues to intrigue me and make me feel there is a potential gateway into Jung's psychology (both his theory of psyche and his personal psychology) in this dream.  This was originally posted in the forum on March 20, 2007.  The comments and analysis following the dream were from May 4, 2009.

Take a look at this dream that Jung records in Memories Dreams Reflections (p.217-220).  He says that it illuminated for him his relationship to Christianity and the writing of both Aion and "Answer to Job".

I wonder what we might make of this.  I'm not sure if I'm satisfied with Jung's explanations for not touching his head to the ground completely and the Uriah/Bathsheba association being a premonition of his wife's death.

He seems to approach the foot of what I think is one of the core Jungian shadow issues: the Christian splitting of the godman into abstract unfathomable God on one hand and a buried inflation shadow on the other.

There seems to be more going on with the Uriah/David dichotomy than Jung explores in MDR . . . and the fact that David's betrayal of Uriah is done to steal his wife.  This seems like an anima issue . . . but Jung brushes it off as a premonition.

Quote from C.G. Jung:

The problem of Job in all its ramifications had likewise been foreshadowed in a dream. It started with my paying a visit to my long-deceased father. He was living in the country-I did not know where. I saw a house in the style of the eighteenth century, very roomy, with several rather large outbuildings. It had originally been, I learned, an inn at a spa, and it seemed that many great personages, famous people and princes, had stopped there. Furthermore, several had died and their sarcophagi were in a crypt belonging to the house.

My father guarded these as custodian.  He was, as I soon discovered, not only the custodian but also a distinguished scholar in his own right-which he had never been in his lifetime. I met him in his study, and, oddly enough, Dr. Y.-who was about my age-and his son, both psychiatrists, were also present. I do not know whether I had asked a question or whether my father wanted to explain something of his own accord, but in any case he fetched a big Bible down from a shelf, a heavy folio volume like the Merian Bible in my library. The Bible my father held was bound in shiny fishskin.

He opened it at the Old Testament-I guessed that he turned to the Pentateuch-and began interpreting a certain passage. He did this so swiftly and so learnedly that I could not follow him. I noted only that what he said betrayed a vast amount of variegated knowledge, the significance of which I dimly apprehended but could not properly judge or grasp. I saw that Dr. Y. understood nothing at all, and his son began to laugh. They thought that my father was going off the deep end and what he said was simply senile prattle. But it was quite clear to me that it was not due to morbid excitement, and that there was nothing silly about what he was saying. On the contrary, his argument was so intelligent and so learned that we in our stupidity simply could not follow it. It dealt with something extremely important which fascinated him. That was why he was speaking with such intensity; his mind was flooded with profound ideas. I was annoyed and thought it was a pity that he had to talk in the presence of three such idiots as we.

The two psychiatrists represented a limited medical point of view which, of course, also infects me as a physician. They represent my shadow-first and second editions of the shadow, father and son.

Then the scene changed. My father and I were in front of the house, facing a kind of shed where, apparently, wood was stacked. We heard loud thumps, as if large chunks of wood were being thrown down or tossed about. I had the impression that at least two workmen must be busy there, but my father indicated to me that the place was haunted. Some sort of poltergeists were making the racket, evidently.

We then entered the house, and I saw that it had very thick walls. We climbed a narrow staircase to the second floor. There a strange sight presented itself: a large hall which was the exact replica of the divan-i-kaas (council hall) of Sultan Akbar at Fatehpur Sikri. It was a high, circular room with a gallery running along the wall, from which four bridges led to a basin-shaped center. The basin rested upon a huge column and formed the sultan's round seat. From this elevated place he spoke to his councilors and philosophers, who sat along the walls in the gallery. The whole was a gigantic mandala. It corresponded precisely to the real divan-i-kaas.

In the dream I suddenly saw that from the center a steep flight of stairs ascended to a spot high up on the wall-which no longer corresponded to reality. At the top of the stairs was a small door, and my father said, "Now I will lead you into the highest presence." Then he knelt down and touched his forehead to the floor. I imitated him, likewise kneeling, with great emotion. For some reason I could not bring my forehead quite down to the floor-there was perhaps a millimeter to spare. But at least I had made the gesture with him. Suddenly I knew -perhaps my father had told me-that that upper door led to a solitary chamber where lived Uriah, King David's general, whom David had shamefully betrayed for the sake of his wife Bathsheba, by commanding his soldiers to abandon Uriah in the face of the enemy.

I must make a few explanatory remarks concerning this dream.  The initial scene describes how the unconscious task which I had left to my "father," that is, to the unconscious, was working out. He was obviously engrossed in the Bible-Genesis?-and eager to communicate his insights. The fishskin marks the Bible as an unconscious content, for fishes are mute and unconscious. My poor father does not succeed in communicating either, for the audience is in part incapable of understanding, in part maliciously stupid.

After this defeat we cross the street to the "other side," where poltergeists are at work. Poltergeist phenomena usually take place in the vicinity of young people before puberty; that is to say, I am still immature and too unconscious. The Indian ambiance illustrates the "other side." When I was in India, the mandala structure of the divan-i-kaas had in actual fact powerfully impressed me as the representation of a content related to a center. The center is the seat of Akbar the Great, who rules over a subcontinent, who is a "lord of this world," like David. But even higher than David stands his guiltless victim, his loyal general Uriah, whom he abandoned to the enemy. Uriah is a prefiguration of Christ, the god-man who was abandoned by God. "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" On top of that, David had "taken unto himself" Uriah's wife. Only later did I understand what this allusion to Uriah signified: not only was I forced to speak publicly, and very much to my detriment, about the ambivalence of the God-image in the Old Testament; but also, my wife would be taken from me by death.

These were the things that awaited me, hidden in the unconscious. I had to submit to this fate, and ought really to have touched my forehead to the floor, so that my submission would be complete. But something prevented me from doing so entirely, and kept me just a millimeter away. Something in me was saying, "All very well, but not entirely." Something in me was defiant and determined not to be a dumb fish: and if there were not something of the sort in free men, no Book of Job would have been written several hundred years before the birth of Christ. Man always has some mental reservation, even in the face of divine decrees. Otherwise, where would be his freedom? And what would be the use of that freedom if it could not threaten Him who threatens it?

Uriah, then, lives in a higher place than Akbar. He is even, as the dream said, the "highest presence," an expression which properly is used only of God, unless we are dealing in Byzantinisms. I cannot help thinking here of the Buddha and his relation¬ship to the gods. For the devout Asiatic, the Tathagata is the All-Highest, the Absolute. For that reason Hinayana Buddhism has been suspected of atheism-very wrongly so. By virtue of the power of the gods man is enabled to gain an insight into his Creator. He has even been given the power to annihilate Creation in its essential aspect, that is, man's consciousness of the world. Today he can extinguish all higher life on earth by radioactivity. The idea of world annihilation is already suggested by the Buddha: by means of enlightenment the Nidana chain-the chain of causality which leads inevitably to old age, sickness, and death-can be broken, so that the illusion of Being comes to an end. Schopenhauer's negation of the Will points prophetically to a problem of the future that has already come threateningly close. The dream discloses a thought and a premonition that have long been present in humanity: the idea of the creature that surpasses its creator by a small but decisive factor.

The comments and analysis below grew out of a consideration of Freud's insistence that psychoanalysis was scientific and rationalistic. These claims have not been very well substantiated in the last 100 years. I doubt that anyone who is not a psychoanalyst or psychoanalytic Jungian takes them seriously anymore. I suspect that the claim to scientific validity that Freud made for psychoanalysis still pulses at the root of a complex shared by his successors (developmental Jungians included). That complex could be called an "inferiority complex", a sense that the worth of psychoanalysis depends on being approved of (by some abstract Father figure) as science, fact, and rational, materialistic argument.

One of Jung's points of divergence from Freud was a higher degree of rejection of this materialistic, rationalistic mindset. It is very possible that Jung saw the complex in Freud and sensed that Freud's desire to "legitimize" psychoanalysis scientifically actually hindered the viable investigation of the psyche on psychoanalytic terms. And yet, as Jung often railed against rationalism and materialism, he himself was trained as a scientist and materialistic thinker. He never fully disposed of this intellectual rationalism and materialism . . . and yet he never faithfully embraced that ideology as Freud did. Jung remained in conflict with himself as both rationalist and spiritualist.

My feeling is that the greatest value of Jung's intellectual contributions is the product of a conflicted life spent trying to find the "Coniunctio" between these two polarized ideologies. Jung himself might have called this an attempt to "hold the tension of the opposites". That is a stressful intellectual space to live in . . . but that tension of opposites was the vehicle of Jung's most innovate thinking. It remains innovative and complex because it is neither one thing or the other.

I also see this as a major factor in Jung's own "personal equation" . . . and I digress on this topic because I believe this dynamic tension between spiritualism and rationalism is the focus of the dream quoted above. My comments from May, 2009 continue below . . .

Freud always aspired to and claimed a much higher level of rationalistic materialism and scientific credibility than he achieved in the conception of psychoanalysis.  This "concealed impotence" in the science department has always functioned as a powerful motivating factor for psychoanalysts to defensively compensate with (at worst) scientistic spin or (at best) an over-valuation of Father Science as approver of the Good Son's rightness and achievement/offering (which is coupled to a undervaluation of that which the Father would less likely approve of).  This particular disease is not common in the Jungian "genetic stock", but Jung himself, in voicing numerous attacks against science and rationalism doth (I think ) protest too much.  In fact, Jung was mostly a very competent rationalist and scientific investigator.  A few of his theoretical digressions are metaphysical and can't be substantiated scientifically, but his sense of reasoning and intellectual self-criticism was at least as rigorous as that of Freud (who had a weakness for dogmatizing and noticeably more zeal for packaging and selling his theory).  But Jung reacted against this side of himself with suspicion and at times antagonism.  Equally, he seems to have reacted from this stance against his own romanticism and spiritualism with suspicion at times.  His negativity toward the anima and her "temptations" is perhaps a case in point.  He mistrusted her urgings for him to identify as an artist (rather than a scientist) . . . and ultimately, he was much more comfortable with his Philemons and wise old man figures than he was with the artistic emotiveness of his anima.  I think that was more than a cultural misogyny.  Jung was a creature of a science vs. religion conflict . . . and he managed to strike a complex and surprisingly stable (if still far from perfect) balance between the two.

I'd like to refer back to Jung's dream about his father, the fishskin bible, and Uriah as the "highest presence" of the psyche.  In this dream, Jung's father is a learned scholar interpreting a complex passage from the fishskin bible with great engagement and emotion.  Jung, and a "Dr. Y and his son, both psychiatrists" do not understand, but whereas Dr. Y's son laughs and thinks Jung's father's interpretation is "simply senile prattle", Jung himself recognizes (even in his ignorance) that his father's analysis of the text is highly complex and brilliant.  After relating this scene of the dream, Jung writes: "The two psychiatrists represented a limited medical point of view which, of course, also infects me as a physician. They represent my shadow-first and second editions of the shadow, father and son."  This small statement is extremely telling and, I think, very important to understanding that Jung was not simply a "mystic", but a person caught between a strong rational impulse and talent on one hand and a powerful mystical "Calling" on the other.  His life's work was, essentially, an attempt to sort this "conflict of Opposites" out.

In the next scene of this dream, Jung hears the sound of wood thrown down on the ground and assumes (rationally) that workmen are working nearby . . . but his father indicates that this was actually caused by poltergeists (spirits).  As his father leads him into the Indian mandala chamber on the second floor over which Uriah presides (behind a closed door above the center), Jung is compelled to kneel and touch his head to the floor after the model of his father.  Yet, he cannot bring himself to quite touch his head . . . another act of rationalism, skepticism, or inability to commit to the "irrational" principles of instinctual spirituality.

The introductory scene of the dream associates the place his father lives with "an inn at a spa, and it seemed that many great personages, famous people and princes, had stopped there. Furthermore, several had died and their sarcophagi were in a crypt belonging to the house."  There are many indications in this dream that it is not so much about the Godhead (as Jung assumed) as it was about Jung's own clash with inflation . . . specifically, the inflation that came with presuming to understand and be able to rationally convey the "ways of the Self" through a somewhat rationalistic and scientific perspective.  This "lesson" seems to have been taken to heart by Jung in his creative work following this dream, most of which lacks the kind of more rationalistic "sense-making" that characterized some of his previous work.  Answer to Job, Aion, and Mysterium Coniunctionis, for instance are sprawling, meandering meditations that lack most signs of rationalistic ordering.  They are not very good books to turn to for an understanding of the subject matter they deal with . . . but they are excellent "projection texts" in which we find a less guarded and organized Jung, one who is at the mercy of his fascination with the material he projects value upon.

Ultimately, I am not contented with this late turning in Jung's life.  Although much of this late work represents Jung the man with greater clarity and depth than his previous work, it is (in my opinion) of lesser intellectual value as psychological theory than some his work in the decades leading up to this new phase.  Rather than allowing us to better understand and language complicated symbolic material like we find in alchemy, these books require interpretation and translation as if they were dreams themselves.  I wouldn't go so far as to say that Jung "backed the wrong horse" in letting his rationalistic coherence or sense of "scholarly purpose" slide in his later writing . . . but I'm not sure he picked the right quality in his personality to oppose or went about opposing it in the best way.  What seems to be buried in the sarcophagi where his father lives and studies are a collection of "great personages, famous people and princes" who stopped there and died.  It is, I think, Jung's desire for the status of "Great Man" that haunts him . . . and not his skepticism or rationality.  Perhaps it is not precise enough to say that Jung craved greatness . . . I'm not sure he did.  But I suspect that he was preoccupied with greatness in the way an innovator who has established a following might be.  It's unclear how this following affected Jung in his later years.  We might see in his comment about rather being Jung than a Jungian a kind of distaste for acolytes.  But I wonder if that distaste actually stemmed from the temptation he felt (in the adoration his acolytes showered him with) to identify with the Great Man.  As a younger man, Jung definitely exhibited a kind of ambitious arrogance and identification with the Genius.  His account of his Salome deification fantasy, his creation of the Seven Sermons to the Dead, and some of his behavior while associated with Freud definitely portray a tendency toward inflation . . . and his very condemning and largely unhelpful writing about the problems of inflation betrays an overly severe and non-therapeutic attitude toward that Jungian bogeyman.

In the dream mentioned above, Jung mistakes what his father tells him is a poltergeist for the sound of workmen chopping and piling wood.  Jung's reflection on this images was: "Poltergeist phenomena usually take place in the vicinity of young people before puberty; that is to say, I am still immature and too unconscious."  There are various ways of interpreting this image that are viable.  One thing that comes to mind is that what is doing the work is an adolescent or preadolescent spirit . . . or specifically, the spirit or drive that we commonly see in the psyche of those people who are transitioning through adolescence and are caught up in a conflict between the longing for a more illusory and provident childhood or infancy on one hand and the calling to initiation into the terrifying social responsibilities of adulthood on the other.  But perhaps these "spirits" are not merely mischievous noisemakers.  Perhaps the work that is being or had been done in and through Jung is driven by this transitioning adolescent spirit that is predominantly a puer.  All the chopped and sorted wood of his theories is not necessarily the work of a rational and civilized senex.  That is, it's not so much about the precise ordering of this wood as it is about hacking away at raw material, being able to swing an ax.  It's manual labor that has an element of destructive glee in it as well as transformation of material into more useful stuff.

We could equally see the adolescent, wood chopping spirit in a more negative light and propose that in some sense the work Jung has done has been "still immature and too unconscious".  It cannot be ignored that Jung had a fascination with spiritualistic phenomena since he was quite young, and that he had sought to find a more or less rationalistic explanation for such things in his early writing (e.g., in analyzing his mediumistic cousin, Helene Preiswerk).  Yet, he seems to have maintained some degree of belief in paranormal phenomena such as "spirits" throughout his life.  It's possible that he experienced spiritualism as a temptation which fell into conflict with his rationalism and materialistic education.  I think we can see what could colorfully be called "poltergeists" in some of Jung's earlier writing (and perhaps, somewhat transformed, in his late writing as well) . . . so that what to the rational side of Jung seemed like the labor of "workmen", was from another perspective (that of the Self-as-Father) the mischief of poltergeists.  Lest that interpretation seem like a stretch, I would have to state that it is less a stretch than a projection, as I have definitely written many things in my life (and especially in adolescence) that could be seen as haunted and driven by "poltergeists" (puer complexes).

It is in the paralleling of my experience with Jung's (a transference, but not, I think, a completely fantastic projection) on this matter, that I have been drawn into Jungianism and the Jungian tribe . . . and the Jungian Disease (as I have previously called it).  I know what has been afoot in my psyche when creating the kinds of texts that Jung at times created . . . and I am very willing to admit that these energies were (and are) adolescent poltergeists that are equally creative and destructive (and cannot truly be refined or conditioned to behave like adults or harness themselves to senexy causes).  These puer poltergeist energies are what makes any experience of "genius" or giftedness a double-edged sword.  They are the volatile aspect of the "Spirit Mercurius" of alchemy that Jung was also fascinated by.  Without them, the creative personality will never be able to make anything of unique usefulness, of genius, of heroic innovation . . . but most of the time, they are devoted to breaking things around the house and tormenting the senex in us with hit and run attacks from behind.  This makes it very difficult for a creative individual to make good friends with the puer (without helplessly identifying with the puer archetype and following its narrative compulsively).  The puer can never be completely sublimated (in the Freudian defense mechanism sense . . . or turned into a senex) . . . or in alchemical language, this would not be "sublimation" (the transformation of a solid into a gas), but "fixation" (the transformation of a gas into a solid).  The volatile, Mercurial puer spirit can only be "fixed" in a grounding (to earth) that is temporary . . . but the spirit still exists and rattles the bars of its cage shouting to be released.  Therefore, the best we can manage is for the Mercurial spirit to be "fixed" to the ebb and flow of a cyclic system of ascent and descent.  We must, that is, accept the dynamism and perpetual reorganization and development of life and psyche in order to put the puer to work.  But (Demonically) trapped puers are merely ticking time bombs.  The puer spirit becomes a functional drive or engine only when its dynamism is given enough space to stimulate renewal . . . and this means that the senex (and Demon) in us must give up the fantasy of perfection-as-stasis (or law).

The poltergeist activity in Jung's dream takes place "across the street" from the previous scene in his father's study . . . and I would suggest that we are seeing one of dreaming's signature narrative-making formations: an alternative perspective on the same psychic complex or situation.  So just as Drs. Y and Son express a kind of rationalistic rejection of Jung's father's biblical interpretations in the first scene, and Jung himself doesn't really follow his father's logic, Jung in the second scene is contributing the overly-rationalistic perspective to the work being done.  So the chopping and piling of wood is made equivalent to the complex interpretation of a sacred text of the unconscious psyche.  It is part scholarly brilliance and part adolescent poltergeist activity . . . and it is the rationalistic mindset of Jung that cannot see how these things are one and the same.  This work that works itself in the unconscious as "genius" or "haunting" is both intellectually complex and playful/mischievous.  It is, I think, what was great about or within Jung.  And I suspect that the dream portrays Jung's father demonstrating this to his son as a kind of lesson or attempted re-education of the "boy" who is at odds with and rather haunted by his own genius and greatness . . . which remains Other to him (as genius always will).

In the contrast of these two scenes about the same thing, we can detect the real stumbling block in Jung's conception of greatness/genius: the dissociation of puer and senex.  The puer's work is cast as "loud thumps, as if large chunks of wood were being thrown down or tossed about", while the senex pontificates animatedly from his arcane tome . . . but the affect driving these manifestations, the instinctual Self, is not two things, but one.  This all leads up to the ultimate lesson that Paul Jung tries to teach his son: what the greatness really is that is enthroned in his psyche.  In the divan-i-kaas of Sultan Akbar at Fatehpur Sikri, it is not the sultan or his Christian equivalent, King David, who is the "highest presence" . . . it is David's betrayed general, Uriah.  In other words, the quintessential Great Man, King David, is trumped by the martyr he has betrayed.  David, seeking to steal Uriah's wife, Bathsheeba, orders Uriah's troops to turn on him in battle.  What we have here is the true husband and partner (of the anima) deceived and dispatched by the great, inflated power of covetous and disloyal David.

What stood as the highest presence of Jung's creative genius was not his inflated, omnipotent Great Man and patriarch, the Demon-persona of David, but the dutiful animus-hero who could relate to the anima . . . one half of the syzygy (and the familiar Self figure who introduces this truth to Jung is his own devalued and not very well respected father . . . a distinctly not-Great man, at least in Jung's eyes).  The highest presence in Jung's psyche is defined by its relationship to the Other as anima.  And Jung's greatest failing was his David-like seizure and domination of this anima.  He seems to have taken both attitudes and been unable to discern which one was better.  Luckily, he did in some ways stand as a Uriah who would fall before the tyrannical power of the Demonic David because he (Uriah) was related to the anima.  But this Uriah-self was trapped within the Demon's imprisonment, at least superficially.  It had to sneak out of this prison to get into Jung's writing (like a poltergeist or the volatile Spirit Mercurius) . . . while Jung's patriarchal David Demon-ego was obsessed with stuffing it back in and keeping it under wraps.  In one of Jung's major late works, Aion, it is curious to see the book begin with definitions of anima, animus, and shadow that come off as rigid and overly negative in parts.  Why did these figures resurface at the beginning of this book to receive such a dressing down?  How had they managed to become "more offensive" over the years since Jung initially wrote about them?

It is also curious that Jung ambitiously conceived of his later works Aion and Mysterium Coniunctionis as books while most of his "middle work" preceding these had consisted of essays.  His first book project had been Psychology of the Unconscious in 1912 . . . which (also curiously) Jung choose to revise in 1952 (when it was re-published as Symbols of Transformation), the same era during which he worked on Aion, Mysterium, and Synchronicity.  The essay, "Synchronicity" is another curiosity, as it is in some ways Jung's most ambitious creative act: an attempt to bring paranormal phenomena in line with scientific observation.  In this attempt, the essay is deeply flawed and unsuccessful.  It suffers from being simultaneously (or perhaps alternatingly) too rationalistic and too spiritualistic.  Rationalism and spiritualism seem to have further dissociated in this work.  Jung's arguments for the acceptance of synchronicity as a useful scientific psychological tool are utterly uncompelling (to anyone not already a Jungian believer), lacking valid data and resting very precariously on a small collection of anecdotes.  Meanwhile, the data Jung does use in the essay to support the science of paranormal psychology is tainted by flawed studies that no longer have any credibility in the scientific world . . . yet it shouldn't have taken a scientific debunking to key in the usually keen mind of Jung to the fact that he was being compelled by a desire to believe, by projection onto the data, and not by any real (i.e., scientific) evidence.  Why is the Jung of "Synchronicity" so "thick" compared to the Jung of other (mostly prior) writings?  I don't think he was going senile (as perhaps some rationalistic voice in him represented by the psychiatrists in the dream might have whispered).  I think he was suffering from an existential crisis of sorts that increased the dissociation between his spiritualistic and rationalistic sides, between his puer and senex.  In "Synchronicity", Jung is caught with his pants down sounding a bit like Fox Mulder lost in the minutia of the discarded X-Files.

Regrettably, this model of late life dissociation in Jung has generally been taken by Jungians as indication of his spiritual transcendence and deepening (irrational) wisdom.  As guru and "Christ" figure, the introjection of this elder Jung into the Self role of many Jungians has been detrimental to their understanding of individuation (not to mention their understanding of Jung and his ideas).  I don't mean to say that I think Jung cracked up in his last years.  Much in these late writings is still shining with the brilliance of insight and outside-the-box thinking that characterizes most of Jung's writing.  But instead of spinning the straw of the flaws in his earlier works into gold in these late ones, what we get is the interweaving of "leaden" yarns, making the late works obscure, disorganized, inconsistent, and almost completely useless as scholarly books.  We cannot look to these books to better understand Jung's psychological theories or to find their ultimate crystallization and elegant expression.  What we find there is mostly Jung the man and the strewn stuff of his psyche.  To be fair, I very much enjoy some of these late works . . . but I can't fool myself into thinking they are great intellectual achievements.  I enjoy them for their (unintentional, I think) intimacy and their subtextual sense of conflict and seeking . . . their vulnerable humanness.  But as a writer (and a writer who has a lot in common with Jung as a literary stylist and thinker), I look at these late works as warning totems of what not to do if I want to be understood or want to communicate ideas.  I see my own kind of literary flaws in these works, and that gives them an extra barb for me.  But I also see the way many Jungians do not adequately scrutinize the flaws in these books and have taken their muddiness for spiritualistically enlightened insight.  I see the decline and fall of Jungianism now upon us, the impaired survivability of the Jungian tribe, as significantly affected by the the attitude many Jungians have taken toward these late works.  Read as "instructions on how to proceed" as a Jungian, they are Bad Medicine.  Read critically and empathically as the genuine attempts of a man to wrap his mind around the entirety of his life lived in the depths of the psyche, they are fascinating and meaningful.

For me, the Jung that wrote most of the thoughts of these late works is the Jung who cannot touch his head completely to the ground along with his father as they kneel before the exalted throne of Uriah.  Despite the great emotion he felt in the act . . . it was not enough to lead to an effective realization:

"These were the things that awaited me, hidden in the unconscious. I had to submit to this fate, and ought really to have touched my forehead to the floor, so that my submission would be complete. But something prevented me from doing so entirely, and kept me just a millimeter away. Something in me was saying, "All very well, but not entirely." Something in me was defiant and determined not to be a dumb fish . . ."

He goes on to rationalize(!) this with: "Man always has some mental reservation, even in the face of divine decrees. Otherwise, where would be his freedom? And what would be the use of that freedom if it could not threaten Him who threatens it?"  I.e., Jung sees it as some "heroic" (egoic) dissent that keeps him both "free" and perhaps "dumb".  In my opinion, Jung couldn't give up the fantasy of the Great Man as patriarch . . . the ego as free to be stubborn and rebellious against the Self.  But that kind of "freedom" doesn't come from "heroic free will".  It comes from the Demon.  It is the hero which surrenders to the Self.  Jung fails here to see that the Self is not ultimately the biblical Judeo-Christian God with all of His equivocation and undifferentiated, patriarchal affects.  The Self is not so grandiose, is not some sultan on a throne of the psyche.  It is a partner of the ego in the task of living and adapting, and although it is "larger" than the ego, it is wholly dependent on the ego to not let it be sacrificed to the covetous cruelty of the Demon.  The true Self does not need to be treated with the kind of resistance that the patriarchal God image requires to "differentiate" it.  It does not set out to thwart the ego's free will.  It seeks merely to pursue equilibrium with the environment through the ego.  The God/man conflict that Jung sees in the Self is a side-effect of his own grandiosity in thinking the ego a valid opponent or equal to the Self . . . when in fact, the real opponent of the Self is the Demon, with the ego caught between.

Of course, as the dream says, Jung came close to embracing this kind of understanding of the Self.  He is only a "millimeter" away.  But that is also a very large and significant millimeter when translated into Jung's theory-making.  That millimeter has compounded itself enormously in the Jungian understanding of the psyche prevailing today.  That is, the Jungian understanding of the relationship between egoism and grandiosity/inflation is impaired as if the impairment grew exponentially from the much smaller flaw in Jung's perspectives on these things.  Even as no one has elaborated the ego/Self relationship as extensively as Jungians have, there is still the sense that very little has been grasped and many of the differentiations made are inadequate.  In getting so close to understanding the ego/Self dynamic, somehow Jungians have managed to find themselves miles away from where they would need to be to have a valid and functional theory of that dynamic (one that, for instance, could have scientific value and not merely be a matter of faith and tribal indoctrination).  Individuation (as the progressing relationship between ego and Self) remains an esoteric concept . . . and many Jungians have been abandoning it piece by piece.  The millimeter of space between Jung's forehead and the floor has been an unraveling yarn resulting in a Jungian sweater greatly unwoven.

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