Red Book Diary – 3

Margin of Error for Jung's Personal Equation

The second fascinating episode of the Red Book (after the previous dialogs with the soul) involves the already somewhat familiar fantasy encounter with Elijah, Salome, and the black serpent that Jung discussed in MDR (as well as at a conference in 1925).  What I would like to do here is an off the cuff analysis of Jung (and his psychological construct of the anima) based on this fantasy or active imagination.  I don't mean this to be anything like a thorough or clinically adequate analysis of either Jung the man or of Jung's analytical psychology . . . but there is a decent chance that it is possible to shed some light on both of these by looking analytically at this fantasy.  I won't reconstruct the plot.  I'm just going to jump right in.

I propose that Jung's anima is not equivalent to Salome (as depicted in this fantasy of a sequence leading up to the mysterium or deification of Jung or Jung's thinking function).  This didn't occur to me until I saw the full text of this sequence as depicted in the Red Book.  But now I feel it is more accurate and functional to see Elijah, Salome, and the black serpent all as dissociated aspects of the anima figure or process in Jung's psyche.  I am here, of course, applying my own revisioning of Jungian anima theory and making no attempt to adhere to traditions and conventions in Jungian thought.

So, along these lines, I see the anima (and animus) as prefigurations of or envoys to the Self.  I agree with Jung that the animi figure is primarily a transitional figure in the psyche and that it represents a process that has some sense of a beginning and an end.  Systemically, it characterizes a process of state change or phase transition where the system reorganizes itself in a seemingly sudden cascade.  Therefore, it can also be seen as a threshold experience or initiation (when viewed in a more colorful and perhaps tribal way).  We also have alchemical symbolism and chemical reactions to look to for metaphorical grounding.

Two preliminary questions must be asked and addressed.  1.) Why are these three figures all parts of the anima? and 2.) If these three together represent a whole, why do they appear here as divided?

As to the first question, some functions of the anima (or animus) when metaphorically personified are as follows (this is a non-exhaustive list).

  1. To present the Self-as-Other to the ego as something incredibly valuable and attractive, something that must be present or connected with in order for the person to be truly "whole" or healthy.
  2. To help break down the rigid egoic structures that have stalled the personality in a state of Bad Faith (I call this stasis-making influence in the personality, the Demon . . . and Jung, to the partial degree he differentiates it in the Red Book, calls it the "spirit of our time" and contrasts this with the "spirit of the depths", a kind of Self system; he might also consider it a "persona", but this I feel is inadequate).
  3. Along with #2 above, to catalyze a reorganization or state change in the system of personality through what seems initially to be a seduction or poisoning that works to dissolve the prior too-static structure and organization of the system.
  4. To woo the ego away from an attitude of Parental dependence on the Self and a desire for the Self-as-God/-Parent to provide sustenance, inspiration, salvation, and libido to the ego.  (See the excerpt quoted in installment 2 of this diary in which the soul says to Jung's narrator, "You speak to me as if you were a child complaining to its mother.  I am not your mother." [p. 236])
  5. To activate the archetypal hero or heroic ego (Jung means something entirely different by this term than I do), who is the true lover of the anima . . . and eventually (after the anima work is complete), the devoted facilitator of the Self system.
  6. To inspire, co-create, and help conceive (along with the hero in the completed Syzygy) the beginnings of a "Logos" or languaging in which the ego can translate (to some degree) and respond to the needs and "thoughts" of the Self.  Therefore, the anima (in its envoy role to the Self) serves as the initial translator of the Self's affective prelanguage.  The anima makes this language more personal and familiar to the ego.  But the culmination of the anima work (or animi work) is the inheritance of responsibility for the translation and languaging of the Self's organizing principle by the ego.  The acceptance and fulfillment of this responsibility is what I mean by the term "heroic".

We can see in light of this abbreviated list that the functions performed in Jung's mysterium fantasy by Elijah, Salome, and the black serpent are all aspects of the anima process and figure.  Salome as "other" (especially to Jung's prudish, rationalistic thinking function/narrator) represents the affect and sensuality of the anima, the desire for the hero and the attraction of that hero.  She is the invisible borderline where the erotic becomes the Erotic, where romantic and sexual desire becomes "spiritualized" or equated with the instinctual necessity of a functionally interrelated and homeostatic Self dynamic.

Elijah represents the Logos-bearing function of the anima, that which translates the affect of the Self-as-God into the Word.  As the father of Salome, he also represents (as is made more overt in a subsequent fantasy) a kind of alchemical Old King for whom Jung's heroic ego is the replacement and rejuvenation, the New King.  This accords with anima function #6 above.  The inheritance of responsibility for the Logos is part of the animi work.

The black serpent represents the instinctual, regenerative, and transformative aspect of the unconscious as initially portrayed through the anima figure.  Her "love" and partnership is not merely a "completion" or blissful fulfillment of selfish longing (and seeing it as such will prevent the anima work process from completing itself).  This union is a kind of sting, a scarification, or initiation wound.  The anima wound or Coniunctio can take numerous forms, but what is really being marked on the ego is a kind of initiation event and passage into psychic adulthood.  What is taken away (the healthy unmarked, "virginal" flesh where the wound will now be) is the provident relationship to the Self-as-Parent/Provider.  It is like the mother's nipple plucked out of the infant's mouth, a kind of weaning.  In the place of this absent breast, a terrible new burden is left: the burden of responsibility for the welfare and facilitation of the Self system.

This would typically correspond with an individuation event where the individual is severed extensively from his or her tribal affiliations (which were part of the complex that maternally provided the milk of Eros and the sense of tribal identity on which the rigid system of personality has become overly-dependent, necessitating the state change into a more dynamic and adaptive system).  That is, the initial environmental imprint of the Self is the mother, then the family, then the tribe.  We develop (more or less unknowingly) a somewhat infantile dependence on the sense of identity and protection these things provide.  But in the individuation event of the animi work, the Self is being re-imprinted because the old imprinting has left too many dissimilarities between the Self system and its tribal construction.  The Self system is inherently adaptive, dynamic, and fluid . . . while socialization and tribal indoctrination is a matter of laws, rules, specific procedures and role plays, status and hierarchy . . . things that are static and not animate of themselves.  The animi work strips much of the imprinting and "languaging" away from the Self image and allows a new, more individual, and more dynamically adaptive myth to be established in its place.  This myth of self-creation is what I mean by the term Logos.  But at the end of the animi work, we have not yet developed a Logos though which we can functionally interact with the Self.  The animi figure always did this for us . . . and that service is no longer provided.  What follows this animi work is a period of gradually figuring out how to construct a viable Logos in conjunction with the input and needs of the Self.

In this sense, the symbol of a "prophet of God" is one who has established a Logos that effectively conveyed and facilitated the instinctual Self system, allowing it to enter the world/environment as a mechanism of adaptation.  But environment changes . . . especially as we mature and pass from infanthood into adolescence and on to adulthood (all of which constitute different human environments).  Therefore, the Old King (languaging relationship of the ego to the Self) must be dissolved and reconstituted by a more adaptive New King.

The skin-shedding serpent represents the ability to change states or alchemically "transmute" into something rejuvenated.  But its power or mana (as we can derive from its blackness) is chthonic, deeply instinctual, somewhat reptilian.  That is, it is a fully autonomous process at its core in which no egoic intelligence is detectable.  It is alien and devalued/othered.  It is the Self or animi as process or mechanism rather than as familiar and somewhat egoic personage.

These elements can all be seen fairly evidently in the triad from Jung's fantasy.  But do they have to be split in this way, and if not, why have they been?  In my own anima work experience, there was no such division.  But there was a transition at one point from a more erotic/sexualized anima figure to one that was a Logos-bearer who taught me (in a dream) something about that role.  That dream made it clear that clinging too tenaciously to the sexual/attractive aspect of the anima amounted to a missing of "the point" and a temptation of dependency.  She had always been a Logos-bearer, but I had not initially realized this, as I had too intellectual and verbal a notion of language (or, as the anima herself phrased it, my thinking and language was initially filled with "Germanisms").

But in Jung's fantasy, something more severe is impeding the fluid wholeness of the anima . . . and Jung has a very hard time seeing his own "Germanisms" (though there is a moment in the Red Book during which his overly Germanic thinking or attitudes are brought under scrutiny!).  I have the feeling that we see Jung's anima divided into three characters (only one of which is clearly female) because of the extent of his personal and cultural prejudices and misogyny.  He simply cannot understand that the Logos is borne by the anima . . . even as his visions proceed to beat him over the head with this (again, he may have some breakthroughs later in the text on this account, but I have not finished reading the whole book yet).  He also (we can presume from the differentiated black snake figure) struggles to understand that there is a transformative element in the erotic.  Sex and woman are devalued objects for Jung here.  He is really only able to value Elijah, the so-called wise old man figure.

But before the mysterium fantasies, Jung dialogs with his soul as a unified entity (see transcription at the end of the second installment of this Red Book Diary).  Following the mysterium fantasies, Jung reconstructs the same basic scenario of Elijah and Salome as a sleepless evening spent in the castle of an old scholar who is obsessed with his books and his "kept" daughter, who yearns to connect with the outside world (through Jung-as-stranger).  I think I will write separately about that episode in greater detail, but for now it is worth at least mentioning that the old scholar from that fantasy (who Jung associates with Elijah at one point) is so obsessed with his books that he ignores Jung's presence and doesn't enter into any intellectual conversation with him (which Jung whines about to the daughter in a later scene).  There is the Old King showing his age and his impaired Eros.  After Jung finally comes to accept the daughter as a vision of his soul and grant her a bit of valuation (it's an epic struggle!), she concludes their meeting with the conveyance of regards from Salome.

My hunch is that the anima work cannot be brought to fruition and completion if the anima figure is not fully valuated and allowed to be the Logos bearer it truly is.  This work is all about valuation of that which is other to the ego . . . and Jung gets this, but must keep it in a glass-walled case of rationalization and intellectualization.  It is fine to learn by small steps, but I worry that Jung's resistance is so severe, that he will never get to the journey's end at this pace and with this prejudice on his back.  I mean to suggest that there is something essential missing or broken in Jung's dissociation of the anima into erotic female, wise old man, and snake.  It is like an engine with the spark plugs removed.  It can't really rev.  The car won't run.  The system can't convert fuel into fire and drive the mechanism.

I am also encouraged to speculate on something that I have always distantly wondered about: the place of the wise old man in the Jungian pantheon.  It is one of the signature Jungian archetypes . . . and it has always struck me as a pocket of disease where Jungianism has a complex.  I have long felt that Jungianism has an artificial identification with the senex . . . and a corresponding shadow projection onto the puer.  Yet, from the perspective of one outside the tribe, Jungianism is clearly a puer enterprise.  It is only within the tribe that we feel our indoctrination and membership enable us to be wise and old.  Far from being a mid-life philosophy, I feel Jungianism is very specifically adolescent.  The desire to identify with the senex is a failure for us.  A failure to individuate, a failure to valuate the puer, a failure to look into our own tribal shadow in a constructive way.

In my own anima work, although older male Self figures (usually portrayed in dreams by my father) played significant roles from time to time (although not usually as teachers), I never had a wise old man figure emerge.  In waking life, I certainly experienced some father/mentor hunger at various stages . . . but I also saw how my desire for this led to destructive projections or could have (in which I demanded far too much from any potential "initiators")*.  Perhaps my fantasy of Jung himself most of all fit this role and transference for me when I was younger . . . but this fantasy was never one of discipleship or initiation.  Rather, it was more of a commiseration on one level and a feeling of valuation for my "individuation sufferings" on another level.  This fantasy-Jung had no answers for me, just a sense that there was precedent and meaning in my dark, meandering path.  When I pursued an active imagination exercise (in the writing of a song) exploring (among other things) this fantasy of Jung, I met him inside the belly of a whale and he said he would grant me a wish in return for a favor.  His problem was that he was supposed to be dead, but couldn't seem to find his way into the underworld.  He had gotten lost or trapped in a dream in which he was dreaming that he was me.  He told me, "Your life is stupid.  You're a fool."

*This will likely be the topic of a future installment of this diary, as Jung's narrator goes on to petition numerous potential wise old men teachers, throwing himself deferentially at their feet like a disciple-in-waiting, only to eventually see through the "wisdom" they represented.  He comes to identify as a devil because of this irrepressible dark urge to undermine or see-through his paternal masters.  My suggestion (to be elaborated in that future installment) is that this devilish unraveler of dogmas in Jung's psyche is, although he doesn't seem to recognize it, his anima.  There are also interesting parallels between these episodes of failed discipleship in the Red Book, and Jung's falling out with Freud.

I asked him (a la Parsifal) if I should search for a Grail (if I was to be a fool, that is).  Instead, he handed me a photograph of the "underground phallus" from one of his earliest dreams recorded in MDR.  I asked him what I could do for him and my thigh started to bleed.  He replied, "You got Visa, they don't take American Express?"  But I had not "credit" on me, so he then asked for my body in order to make a peace offering to the dead.  I gave this to him in the form of a "crate full of lead".  And the wish I made in return for this favor was to be back in my bed.  The wish was granted: I was back in my bed . . . in the belly of a whale!

A series of misadventures ensued . . . and as I finally started to "get it", I met Jung again.  He was floating down the river Styx on the crate full of lead I had given him while in the whale.  My anima (as Persephone) and I waved to him from a ship we were sailing on, and he threw us a cup.  Persephone filled this with Ambrosia and we both drink as Jung passed, finally, into the land of the dead.  This song (called "Talkin' Hades Return to the Underworld Blues") could be seen as an example of my own "mysterium" or "deification" fantasy corresponding to the fantasy Jung relates of Elijah, Salome, and the black serpent (I have to say, though, that my song is significantly less portentous and more humorous than the Red Book . . . but nowhere near as pretty . . . and this says something interesting about both myself and Jung).

The deification fantasy that Jung does describe in the final mysterium fantasy requires further reflection.  Even as he seems an unwilling participant in the process to some degree, there is undeniably a grandiosity to it all (as there is in my song, where I "find myself" by remembering I am Hades).  Two things must be said about this symbol and the grandiosity that surrounds it.  First is that I believe some of this grandiosity to be a usually side effect of the numinous experience of initiation . . . but I also think that the grandiosity of Jung's fantasy is inadequately tempered by the right kind of humility.  That "right kind of humility" is one that (in this case) needs to supplant the temptation to intellectualize the experience and make wordy, abstract, metaphysical philosophies out of it.  There is just a bit too much "interpretation" in Jung's thinking function assessment following the deification fantasy.  He dulls and distorts it . . . and has a hard time disentangling the symbol of deification (what I would more subtly call heroic initiation or response to the heroic Call) from the exaltation of his thinking function to a level of spiritual truth-saying.  That latter turn or interpretation is, I believe, the temptation of inflation or Demonic colonization of the heroic knighting experience.

For instance, becoming the new "prophet" replacing Elijah is a bit too presumptuous.  The status of "prophet" in one's own psyche is reserved for the heroic ego who has developed an intricate and sophisticated Logos through which the Self system's dynamism is facilitated.  The heroic knighting or response to the Call that is, I think, the real psychic event Jung's fantasy is depicting, is merely the beginning of a journey that will (if fulfilled) end in the Logos-bearing . . . and only after the anima is fully valuated and united with.  And then, to bear the Logos is, especially at first, to bear not-knowing, to have no adequate language, to be lost in blackness and instinctual affect and shadow.  It is no mastery, no "truth-saying".  In Jung's interpretations and elaborations of his mystical encounters in the Red Book, there is an abundance of languaging . . . and that abundance helps resoundingly demonstrate this languaging's inadequacy and Jung's "thinking-type" fear of or defense against not-knowing.

But in fairness, the response to the Call does essentially allow the "Holy Spirit" to descend upon the heroic ego in baptism . . . and that will always lead to intuitions about what the completion of the anima work will bring . . . and numerous Demonic attempts to skip ahead and identify with that fantasy of the completed Self and mystical Goal.  I don't therefore mean to condemn Jung only to inflation.  But I do feel that this mysterium deification should not be interpreted by Jungians as indicative of an "individuation" or spiritual/mystical transcendence.

One thing that Jung either misrepresented or I have misremembered in his MDR retelling of the Red Book deification fantasy is Salome's worship of the deified Jung "as Christ".  In the Red Book, Salome does tell Jung he is Christ (and he replies to her in a way similar to Christ's reply to Pilate: "You, Salome, say that I am Christ?").  She wraps Jung's feet with her hair as the black serpent coils around his body and his face becomes like that of a lion and blood flows from his body.  And when she rises up from this act, she is no longer blind (the symbol of her blindness, by the way, doesn't strike me as any kind of archetypal anima blindness . . . rather it is Jung's projection of blindness and lack of insight upon her.  This blindness personifies the blindness of Jung's thinking function).  Elijah tells Jung his work is done for now.  As Jung leaves feeling somewhat deeply moved but perhaps somewhat unworthy and out of place, Elijah erupts into a huge white flame while Salome, enraptured (and with the snake wrapped around her foot), "kneels before the light in wonderstruck devotion".

Even in the role of Christ, it is as if Jung play only a bit part, acts as a kind of cog in the mysterium ceremony, which seems to have more to do with Elijah, Salome, and the black serpent.  Salome's role here is that of a recipient or bearer of the Logos flame.  Her eyes are opened for it.  And just as she is granted her sight, so is Elijah transformed into pure fire and light.  Jung is not yet ready to take on this responsibility.

Below, I make an error in understanding the notation for the layout of the Red Book.  The painting pictured here is not what I originally assumed it was.  The painting actually depicts the hatching of the egg into which Jung placed Izdubar to carry him inside a house in a later passage.  Jung worships what is released from this hatching; it is not Salome.

One of the reasons I wanted to write this diary of reflections on the Red Book in such haste is that I wanted to allow room for even mistaken reactions like this.  What I learn from this particular one is that the strong emotional reaction I had to Jung's interaction with Salome and his soul (and his misogynistic attitudes in general) led me to associate in my own mind Jung's dream of his father and this painting.  Jung, in fact, has much less of a problem bowing down before images of masculine transcendence and power (as he continuously gravitates toward wise and/or learned men in the Red Book journeys).

Still, this is more of an error of scholarship/citation than a substantive mistake.  As I wrote in my reflections on Jung's dream of his father, the failure to completely bow down to Uriah-as-the-Highest-Presence is a failure to observe the supremacy or greater value of the true hero and sacrificed partner of the anima over the "Great Man", David, who steals/usurps the lusted after Bathsheba and has her husband killed/betrayed in a most cowardly of ways.

I have been learning as I progress through the Red Book that my desire for Jung to "get it", to find a way to valuate his anima as I feel it should be valuated, is an obstacle in the path of my understanding of the text.  I think my assessment of Jung as somewhat "anima-impaired" and prone to misogyny is valid . . . but the Red Book seems to have at least as much to do with Jung's relationship to his own heroism and his relationship to masculine images of divinity, wisdom, and power/mana.  I'll continue to investigate this as this diary progresses.

What I wrote below about the anima as Logos-bearer also remains valid . . . although Jung may not have recognized this.

I am also reminded in the painting of this scene (in which Salome's head is touched to the floor in supplication to the Logos flame) of Jung's dream of his father, the fish-skin bible, and Uriah as the Highest Presence that I previously posted some reflections on.  In that dream, although Jung's father assumes such a position in regard to Uriah-as-Highest-Presence, Jung cannot quite bring himself to touch his head to the floor.  It seems to parallel his attitude toward the anima-as-Logos-bearer.  Just as Jung was witness to Salome's devotion to the Logos flame, he is a witness to his father's devotion to Uriah.  But this witnessing is not the same thing as participating.  Perhaps Jung felt that such participation would have been a sacrifice of his autonomy and right to choose, but this is unconvincing to me.  One must participate in order to be fully transformed.  Autonomy and analysis can come later.  We cannot language these things before or even while we live them.  If we try to do so, we merely create a barrier between ourselves and the fire of transformation, the fire of instinctual affect, which is the force of the Self's organizing principle.

Jung seems to be constantly in conflict with his drive to participate in his own mysticism.  He moves from denials and protestations to distancing interpretations and displacements.  Rarely does he seem to exist in the moment.  It's odd because the Jung of the Collected Works is not what I would call a skeptic.  In these books he seems to usually participate in the subject matter and even falls into flights of poeticism, distraction, and digression.  As a writer, he is often at the mercy of a kind of creative momentum that appears to be a horse that directs its rider.  Of course, this feeling is more readily derived from his later writings . . . while the stuff of the Red Book mostly came on the heels of his split with Freud and "confrontation with the unconscious".  But the dream of his father mentioned above was a dream from late in his life . . . and where the anima was concerned, all of Jung's writing and lecturing seems to have exhibited this inability to completely touch his head to the ground, to valuate.

One last thing to mention in the context of this mysterium fantasy is something that also comes up in various places in the Red Book.  This is the idea of becoming Christ or a Christ instead of worshiping Christ.  This is a bit of Gnosticism that Jung wrestled with.  It intrigued him, but I sense a lot of consternation in his experience of this "Christhood" . . . and the Jungian disease I have written about elsewhere has a distinct problem with its temptation to identify as Christ rather than as Christian.  Jungians typically meet this temptation by thrusting the symbol of Christhood into the shadow.

Jung himself made what I feel is a drastic (but of course, common) error in equating the self (I prefer to use the capitalized Self) with Christ and with the "Christhood" of the whole personality.  The figure of Christ is not the same thing as what I call the Self . . . and this Self can never be "me".  It is not something I can become, even as it is always something that is "also who I am".  The Self is always Other on some level.  But the symbol of Christ is actually a representation of the "ideal individuant" or heroic ego sacrificing itself to valuate and facilitate the Self system.  As a devout "anti-Gnosticism" the Catholicism that Jung inherited contains an inextricable element of propaganda against Gnostic identification with Christ.  The Catholic Christ is exalted beyond human reach through totemization and taboo . . . and his gory Passion and crucifixion function as kinds of ornaments or scarecrows meant to ward off the Gnostic impulse.

But that Gnostic impulse is a natural event in any individuation process.  The heroic ego must be identified with for the animi work to progress.  By tabooing the individual identification with Christ, the Church tabooed the hero, and effectively thwarted the individuation process by associating the natural emergence of the heroic attitude with shame and terrible sin.  This is not merely an accident, as it was the desire of the Church to act as a monopoly where the communion between man and God was concerned.  Gnosticism was a great danger to the success of the Church because it encouraged individuals to self-create their spirituality, to self-validate.  Gnosticism did not seek to profit from implanting itself into a gatekeeper role.  But there is no doubt that the Church did profit, and it profited enormously . . . even as it also served a pivotal role in the destruction of a "middle class" and the lopsided redistribution of wealth in the Western world . . . the establishment of a wide scale serfdom.

There is more to the Christian self-deification taboo than pure sinfulness, but Jung doesn't really deconstruct the Church and its theology.  He seeks merely to revise it.  And even as his inclinations (as those of any individuating person) lean toward the Gnostic disposition, for Jung it is a matter of righteousness and true faith to properly reconcile this Gnostic revisioning with Catholic religiosity and theological dogma.  Jung directed most of his Christian criticism at Protestantism, but he did not exert much effort to deconstruct Catholic Christianity and Church doctrine.  And this is where the self-deification taboo and the anti-Gnosticism originate.

Therefore Jung (with the Jungians after him) has attempted to understand and pursue individuation without resolving the Catholic taboo placed on the hero.  This leaves Jungians in conflict with themselves, continuously see-sawing between the temptation to self-deify and the crushing, Demonic shame that holds that bit of Gnosticism to be inflated, immoral, and mad.  Of course, before Gnosticism, the Mystery religions carried out deification initiations where the madness of the god (Dionysus) was engaged ritualistically as a transformative agent . . . and this process, it seems, did not involve all the self-flagellation that Catholicism would introduce.

I would propose that the taboo and the intense shame surrounding the stuff of individuation as well as the tremendous temptation of grandiosity individuation seems to offer are not actually the products of necessity or inevitability.  These are cultural artifacts (largely, not entirely), the baggage of Catholic inheritance.  As this heroic self-deification was tabooed by the Church, it had no way of ritually bringing individuals into and out of the madness of identification with the god.  Here, Christianity is an irresponsible parent that can only shame but doesn't know how to nurture or "hold".  There is no Christian vessel of transformation for the individuant . . . and that makes the wilderness of the heroic journey all the more terrible and difficult to endure for Christianized Westerners.

Regrettably, Jungians have inherited a wholesale version of this from their founder, who was a deeply Christianized thinker.  Jung definitely made inroads in the heroic journey against the sway of Christian taboo and dogma, but he did not manage to differentiate the self-deification taboo in the roots of the Christian inheritance.  The result was a dissociation, an exaltation and prescription of individuation on one hand, but a shadowed and repressed individuation swampland on the other.  On the Jungian map of individuation, "There be dragons" is written over all the uncharted boundaries.  But what Jung was not adequately clear about was that these uncharted areas of the Jungian world are unavoidable for those who choose or are compelled to pursue individuation.  Therefore, for most of the Jungian tribe (who respect the map's dogmatic warnings about boundaries and dragons), individuation is a totem that can only exist as a sacred tribal object but not as a truly Jungian path of identity.  Individuation is a god we worship rather than a road we walk . . . just as Christ is an object of distanced worship for Christians to be petitioned with prayers and sheepishness, and not a true model to follow.

But if Jungians could find a way to look farther back into the ancient mystery religions, we could at least begin to imagine that the deification can be ritually "held" as a threshold of transformation.  How that could be done in the modern world is up to our invention . . . and it won't be easy.  But the pre-Christian (as well as the alchemical) past allows us to entertain that the successful navigation of such thresholds is at least possible.

What we Christianized moderns so often fail to realize is that becoming Christs is not as exalting as we imagine it to be.  It is the Church and its propaganda that tabooed and exalted Christhood far beyond human reach.  But for initiates into the Mysteries and for early Gnostics, "Christhood" was something that many people could participate in without becoming "superior beings".  Christhood, after all, is not about the power and the glory of transcendence.  It is actually about the facilitation of the god, of God, or of the sacred on earth . . . the facilitation of the instinctual, adaptive Self system in the environment.  Platonic Christianity ripped spirit away from its grounding in instinct . . . and in the process, created the spiritual disease of inflation and psychotic grandiosity.  But that grandiosity that Jungians so fear is properly understood as the product of a dissociation that resulted from the devaluation of instinct (the fall of Sophia or the soul into lifeless Matter).  As the Gnostic myths tell us, the freeing of this soul from Matter or instinct is the province of the Logos.

Jung's Salome is a soul figure who has fallen into Matter (as blinded, beheading, desirous sensuality).  She has been devalued and not allowed to have sight and language.  But she hungers to unite with the Logos . . . and as a figure of Jung's soul, she desires to be redeemed in the ensouled Logos of Jung's language and thought.  But he fails to create an adequate vessel for her to be born in or redeemed through.  We only glimpse her through the cracks in his resolve, where she is surrounded by shadows.

Maybe Jung found ways to enlarge these cracks as he proceeded through his life and psyche.  But the literature he left his intellectual and tribal heirs leaves no directions for accomplishing this.  There is merely a vague indication that, somehow, it should be accomplished.  But because we do not know how and have not been shown the way by the father, we fail again and again and have developed a complex around this with its myriad illusions and misdirections.  We devote a great deal of time and energy to trying to escape from the sword of this complex . . . but we rarely choose to face the blade and work to transform it.  Like Jung in the Red Book, we mostly shrink away from our soul and from the threshold of initiation it governs.


Red Book Diary – 2

Partitionings and Prejudices

Two things struck me most as I began reading Jung's Red Book.  The first was that it felt very familiar.  It felt (more so than sounded) a lot like things I had written during my anima work.  My journal writings were a lot less formalized . . . there were no revisions, no sense that they would become a product intended for an audience.  But that feeling of somewhat grandiose clawing to make sense of the rush of numinous images and affects that come from the dissolution experience, that feeling of being in over your head in something both fascinating and terrifying, that feeling of being utterly ill equipped to make much sense out of what you are experiencing.

Jung's writing also felt familiarly Jung-ian to me.  All of the dualism, the dichotomization of Opposites, the idea that everything "light" must have a "dark" component.  This seems to run throughout the Red Book.  It is a core layer of Jung's mysticism.  But what is most interesting (to me) in seeing it applied in this style and topic of writing is that it seems . . . perhaps "tacked on" is not the right term, but it seems very much a kind of arbitrary interpretive paradigm held up to a spontaneous psyche that does not really divide so easily into opposites.  And that leads me to my second initial impression.

In Jung's fantasy dialogs with his soul, we see a very distinct opposition.  Jung obviously senses and means to explore this opposition with the text's experiment.  Jung's identity in the Red Book (at least thus far) is, well, not quite that of a scientific rationalist, but certainly a devoted skeptic of anything irrational, mystical, seemingly "untoward".  In the terms of his own type theory, he is an extreme thinking type.  At least this is how he portrays his egoic attitude.

The opposition to the soulful madness and irrationality of the unconscious really stood out to me, because it was not the way I have experienced the unconscious or the anima.  One gets the impression that Jung was "playing up" the degree of his thinking type orientation.  Or rather, that he sought to identify with this typology excessively as a kind of defense, yet it was not completely natural to him.  After all, he was making the decision to have dialogs with his soul and record them in this grandiose, projection-laden, mystical text.  If he had really ever been a scientific rationalist, it's doubtful any such project would have ever been embarked on.

What I think I mean to get at here is that the splintering or compartmentalizing of personality complexes that would come to define much of Jungian psychology develops here as a paradigm or mold fit over an interaction with the spontaneous unconscious.  As one not entirely satisfied with Jungian type theory and the (over-)differentiation of numerous things psychic into specific archetypes, personages, and complexes, the splintering paradigm seemed partly artificial to me.  That is, I believe it was "honest" on Jung's part, but the division and "oppositionalism" struck me as the product of an arbitrary and under-investigated attitude or prejudice in Jung's thinking.

Still, to see these divisions helps us to understand Jung's thinking and theories.  But as a person all too familiar with the abstract, philosophical muddling about in language that the "intellect" is inclined to do when trying to make sense of the "soul", I felt that there was a powerful distinction in the value of what was being written that could be made between what Jung's "thinking function" narrator expressed in the name of interpretation and what Jung's soul figure/s expressed.  And of course, Jung's thinking function narrator has significantly more to say about everything than his soul does.  When the soul speaks, it seems as though Jung's thinking function really doesn't understand at all . . . and then it must go off in spirals of contemplation, speculation, conceptualization, and interpretation.  But these spirals (though I recognize them as an essential aspect of this kind of active imagination/meditation project) felt completely empty to me.  They meant nothing.  Yes, they sound deep and philosophical . . . but they are just elaborate, intellectualized ways of backpedaling and evading the direct comments and criticism of the soul.

I don't mean to completely discredit them.  It is easy to see how a number of Jung's staple theories evolved out of these abstracting, spiraling speculations.  So, for the historian in us, these parallels may seem fascinating.  But as "Philosophy", as insight into the Self system or into the anima, they are a worthless currency.  As one who has minted a great deal of this kind of worthless currency, I recognized its stamp.  I found myself impatient with this part of the text, and I skimmed over it (as much as my guilt over skimming the "sacred Red Book" would allow me).  But during these interpretive passages I found myself hungering for the return to dialog with the soul . . . or at least the retelling of visions and archetypal fantasies.

I don't feel put out by this thinking type "filler", but I worried as I slogged through it that other Jungians would see great wisdom and truth in these passages.  I'm not sure (and will have to wait to read other Jungian takes on these writings).  But these extremely familiar writings are what I call "projection texts".  That is, the texts themselves are meaningless or at least not really important, but the author has introjected him or herself into the subtext, which is a kind of transformative vessel.  We (who write) need to make such vessels and create such projection texts, because it is how we find our soul.  It is a way to let aspects of the Other into our minds in the hope that they will somehow fertilize us.  But it is easy to get lost in the textual facade (for both authors and audiences).  Much postmodern theoretical writing is a matter of projection texts.  The result of such writing is not (for the most part) a furthering of universal knowledge or the creation of a better way of seeing a particular issue.  What happens is that those who fall into a transference with these texts tend to unconsciously move toward classical tribalist formations.  The texts are totems (things into which great tribal value is projected) . . . and they must be worshiped.  They are used for indoctrination and the regulation of tribal beliefs.

Jung was not writing for this reason . . . and it is doubtful that most such writing is made to be propaganda.  It is mostly heartfelt and deeply believed in by its author.  But the problem of the mysticism of language is that it deceives us with the ruse of seeming to hold a latent sense or to be somehow interpretable.  It isn't.  This is not what such writing "means".  This kind of writing is about getting lost in the woods in the hope of finding oneself some place magical.  For the original author, this could be a communion with the Self or soul (as in the case of the Red Book).  But for other readers who are drawn to these texts, there is less draw toward their soul than there is to a sense of tribe.  The facade of these texts becomes the dogma of the tribe.  As Jungians already struggle in this arena, I worry that the Red Book would not help them out of that rut.

But for me, one who is curious about the soul of Jung and of the Jungian tribe most of all (and who doesn't want to fall into an unconscious participation mystique with the Jungian tribe), I wanted only to hear from Jung's soul figure.  Jung the narrator only really came alive for me when he was in conversation with her.  And that is the Jung that is least known to us, the one we are looking for in this Red Book.

In addition to the extreme "thinking type" posture Jung's narration takes in the Red Book, it is also very evident that Jung (or this thinking function aspect of his personality) exhibits deep-seated misogyny.  This distaste for women and the feminine goes way beyond a culturally constructed "19th century, patriarchal prejudice".  Often, Jung puts this fear and suspicion of women into terms that well predate his era . . . and even point back to a kind of Christianized association of woman with the devil.  It isn't quite a Malleus Maleficarum level misogyny, but it is severe.

This didn't come as any surprise to me, as this attitude is evident in his Collected Works, as well.  But it is pointed enough in the Red Book that it seems completely fair to say that Jung has some kind of "complex" where women and the feminine are concerned.  To be fair to Jung, though, the inner exploration recorded in the Red Book marks an attempt to address and repair this misogyny.  But we can say with certainty, being familiar with Jung's later writing on the animi and women's psychology, that the attempt to repair this misogyny through the psychic events that inspired the Red Book did not entirely work.  It didn't entirely work, but it seems to have worked a bit.

Jung portrays himself (his thinking function) in the Red Book as ever the reluctant participant in the "debauchery" of the unconscious's irrational assault (at least until he can rationalize away its sting).  An assault led or characterized by the anima, soul, or Salome.  I remain (being about half way through the text at this writing) uncertain whether Jung has exaggerated his thinking function and its misogyny and prudishness out of a "theatrical dissociation" into roles.  An alchemical text that would come to interest and perhaps influence Jung greatly later in his life was The Speculative Philosophy by Gerhard Dorn.  Dorn's writing takes a very similar dissociative approach (and significantly resembles Jung's Red Book writings) . . . although, in the case of that text, it is fairly clear that Dorn is employing this knowingly as a literary device.  This device was commonly used at least since ancient times.  Whether Jung employed it knowingly or not, it certainly lends itself to his theory of personality structure and complexes.

Whatever the case, Jung's narrator in the Red Book is not all that likable a fellow.  He comes across as simultaneously a bit thick (where otherness is concerned), prone to grandiosity, and excessively fortified with prejudice and prudishness.  Jung may have preferred to interpret some of these qualities as "womanish", but in my opinion they are really a shadow aspect of a rigidly constructed patriarchal masculinity.  He exhibits a pronounced fear of "penetration" or contamination (this is something of an oddity, because Jung was very valuative overall in his published writings where the irrational contents of the unconscious were concerned).  Every foreign thing from the unconscious must be elaborately and sometimes aggressively defended against for many paragraphs before a little bit of empathy and openness develops in his posture.  Even after this empathy is allowed to have a small space in consciousness, more rationalizations and limitations are then placed upon it.  The so called "soul" seems to be severely throttled throughout much of the dialog.  In MDR, Jung wrote something to the effect of having to lend his own voice to his anima/soul because she didn't have one of her own.  I would interpret this more along the lines of: Jung had to force himself to stop choking "her" for a few seconds at a time just to let her squeak out a few words.

And those words that do get out are much more important (to Jung's mental health and to our understanding of Jung's psychology, both personal and academic) than the tirades of rationalized prejudice and squirming that Jung's narrator performs.

I would like to quote a few paragraphs from this dialog here (p. 236-237):

Experiences in the Desert

After a hard struggle I have come a piece of the way nearer to you.  How hard this struggle was!  I had fallen into an undergrowth of doubt, confusion and scorn.  I recognize that I must be alone with my soul.  I come with empty hands to you, my soul.  What do you want to hear?  But my soul spoke to me and said, "If you come to a friend, do you come to take?"  I knew that this should not be so, but it seems to me that I am poor and empty.  I would like to sit down near you and at least feel the breath of you animating presence.  My way is hot sand.  All day long, sandy, dusty paths.  My patience is sometimes weak, and once I despaired of myself, as you know.

My soul answered and said, "You speak to me as if you were a child complaining to its mother.  I am not your mother."  I do not want to complain, but let me say to you that mine is a long and dusty road.  You are like a shady tree in the wilderness.  I would like to enjoy your shade.  But my soul answered, "You are pleasure-seeking.  Where is your patience?  Your time has not yet run its course.  Have you forgotten why you went into the desert?"

My faith is weak, my face is blind from all that shimmering blaze of the desert sun.  The heat lies on me like lead.  Thirst torments me, I dare not think how unendingly long my way is, and above all, I see nothing in front of me.  But the soul answered, "You speak as if you have still learned nothing.  Can you not wait?  Should everything fall into your lap ripe and finished?  You are full, yes, you teem with intentions and desirousness!--Do you still not know that the way to truth stands open only to those without intentions?"

I know that everything you say, Oh my soul, is also my thought.  But I hardly live according to it.  The soul said, "How, tell me, do you then believe that your thoughts should help you?"  I would always like to refer to the fact that I am a human being, just a human being who is sometimes weak and sometimes does not do his best.  But the soul said, "Is this what you think it means to be human?"  You are hard, my soul, but you are right.  How little we still commit ourselves to living.  We should grow like a tree that likewise does not know its law.  We tie ourselves up with intentions, not mindful of the fact that intention is the limitation, yes, the exclusion of life.  We believe that we can illuminate the darkness with an intention, and in that way aim past the light.  How can we presume to want to know in advance from where the light will come to us?

let me bring only one complaint before you: I suffer from scorn, my own scorn.  But my soul said to me, "Do you think little of yourself?"  I do not believe so.  My soul answered, "Then listen, do you think little of me?  Do you still not know that you are not writing a book to feed your vanity, but that you are speaking with me?  How can you suffer from scorn if you address me with those words that I give you?  Do you know, then, who I am?  Have you grasped me, defined me, and made me into a dead formula?  Have you measured the depths of my chasms, and explored all the ways down which I am yet going to lead you?  Scorn cannot challenge you if you are not vain to the marrow of your bones."  Your truth is hard.  I want to lay down my vanity before you, since it blinds me.  See, that is why I also believed my hands were empty when I came to you today.  I did not consider that it is you who fills empty hands if only they want to stretch out, yet they do not want to.  I did not know that I am your vessel, empty without you but brimming over with you.

This was my twenty-fifth night in the desert.  This is how long it took my soul to awaken from a shadowy being to her own life, until she could approach me as a free-standing being separate from me.  And I received hard but salutary words from her.  I needed that taking in hand, since I could not overcome the scorn within me.