Nietzsche’s Zarathustra Seminars part 1

Zoroaster

So I’ve finally got my hands on part 1 of Jung’s Nietzsche seminars. Having searched and searched in the end a friend had a copy!

So I’ve done this backwards, taking in part 2 last year some time and part 1 last week. But no matter at least I’m prepared!

And part 1 fits in with what Jung was saying later on his lectures about Nietzsche taking leave of his senses.

The main theme is that Nietzsche loses contact with the earth and takes wing. In other words reality is waved bye bye.

And how does that come about? Well, it’s brilliantly illustrated by the figure of Zarathustra, according to Jung.

The great Persian prophet, normally known in English as Zoroaster, was alive anywhere between the 18th and 6th centuries BC.

He it was, in Jung’s opinion, who first voiced the idea of good and bad in nature.

It’s a bold statement, but then in Jung’s view consciousness itself is not that old. So awareness of oneself and the world is followed by morality just some time later.

But we still have to answer that why writing a book about Zarathustra should send Nietzsche mad.

Well, it’s because Nietzsche identified with the prophet. In the unconscious they mingled, and he became inflated by making it conscious. As Jung often says, when people have great insights and they identify themselves with these, they become too superior.

The significance of Zarathustra is that he was around before Christianity, so before this sense of good and evil. And as Nietzsche is trying to move away beyond these, and to kill the idea of God, he settles on Zarathustra.

Thing is, Zarathustra takes on Godlike status, and Nietzsche sees himself as Zarathustra.

Ergo: Nietzsche is God!

Well this fits in fact with Jung’s conception of the God being inside of us all. We all contain the ultimate meaning and spark: it’s just within ourselves rather than an old man in a beard somewhere up in heaven sitting on a big chair.

Nietzsche talks of the need to get beyond the idea of God and religion – and in fact he’s partly right in that the morals are outdated:

It would be a development if we could produce criminals with a moral sense; we would then arrest them and bring them before the judge who would say, “Now Mr. So and So, I am very sorry, but I must tell you that you have done something which really should not be done…” Now if the criminal is so far developed that he is deeply humiliated by that, so that he really promises never to do such a thing again, that would work. But we first produce decent criminals (p.487)

Brilliant! He completely skewers modern views of wrongdoing. Instead of trying to improve others we should do that most unfashionable thing of working on ourselves:

For instance, if someone should ask me what I have done in the last fortnight and I should say I had done work on myself, he would ask, “What do you do – gymnastics?” If I told him what I had done, he would call it plum crazy, absolute bunk – what is the good of it, one cannot sell it, it doesn’t apply anywhere…Yet in former times, people were so utterly convinced of the reality of such work on oneself, that whole cities of people withdrew into the wilderness to do just that…But with us it has been stamped out on account of the cowardice of the so-called Christian love for the neighbour.

We need to move beyond Christianity, but not the idea of God. Because there’s a God inside all of us, one that makes us special and creates meaning in life. It’s just that God needs to encompass the things we mess up on, the bad things we do and not just a pure goodness that isn’t real. And that’s where Nietzsche goes wrong.

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The Red Book

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I love the image of Jung sketching and painting away at this book in between seeing patients, creating curlicues or painting scrolls, all the while at his easel.

That’s the tale that a few of his entourage at the time have recounted of his creation of The Red Book.

Although Jung didn’t share exactly what he was doing, he encouraged the fundamental idea of respecting what the unconscious brings forth.

So the images that assailed him in the period just before the First World War find form in this book.

It’s amazing that anyone should have created a work of such beauty, in an early 20th century version of the medieval illustrators.

Many of these have now been scattered to all corners of the modern internet. The snake that breathes forth a tree, the ‘E’ that contains every smaller repetitious shapes, like self-reproducing crystals that could be thoughts or cells. And the dragon-headed caterpillar, its legs representing the feelers by which we understand the world.

What’s more amazing is that few are aware of its existence, still, even five years after its wider publication.

That’s probably because of the obscurity of the material, drawing on interactions between Jung himself and figures in his dreams and imagination that few will understand.

There’s the wise old man in the form of the guide known as Philemon. Then there’s the father and daughter pair Elijah and Salome, each vying for domination but eventually achieving some kind of balance with Jung’s consciousness.

The language is sometimes obscure, the ideas even more so. And if you’re not in the mood for it, the over-wrought emotionality is sometimes unbearable.

But at other times the insights are simply astonishing.

Why do men not see their stupidity? Stupidity is a daughter of the God. Therefore men cannot stop murdering since thus they serve the serpent of the God without knowing it. It is worth giving one’s life for the sake of serving the serpent of the God…not wanting to murder and die amounts to deceiving the God…the God grows strong through human murder.

Jung is horrified by these words of Philemon, but has to be reconciled with them, as they speak to the dead, and to a part of him.

But what marks the Red Book out as against most of his other works is its feeling aspect. The colour and sometime even lack of intellectual rigour makes it a very different beast from his Collected Works writings.

…the image that I saw was crimson, fiery coloured, a gleaming gold. The voice I heard was like distant thunder, like the wind roaring in the forest, like an earthquake…

This is a floundering, non-structured descent into the unconscious. And the figures that emerge – in this case Elijah – will colour all of his writings from then on. As the new volume has in its inner pages: “The years of which I have spoken to you, when I pursued the inner images, were the most important of my life. Everything else is to be derived from this.”

So you could simply just look at the amazing images, stunning in their execution and ideation.

Or – and this is a much longer task – get to grips with the figures about whom he writes, which will inform you about your own internal conversations and relationships.

One other thing: I like the sound of Cary de Angulo (later Baynes), someone who I’d never come across before in relation to Jung.

Discussing the Red Book and whether Jung should publish it is recorded in Cary’s diary on 2 October 1922:

 Then you said you had thought of making an autobiography out of it. That would seem to me by far the best, because then you would tend to write as you spoke which was in a very colourful way. But apart from any difficulty with the form, you said you dreaded making it public because it was like selling your house. But I jumped upon you with both feet there and said it wasn’t a bit like that because you and the book stood for a constellation of the Universe, and that to take the book as being purely personal was to identify yourself with it which was something you would not think of permitting to your patients … Then we laughed over my having caught you red-handed as it were.

She transcribed part of The Red Book and is mentioned in Sonu Shamdasani’s lengthy introduction. Cary seems devoid of the sycophancy of many of Jung’s followers, as well as the spite of his enemies. I’m going to research her life/work more I reckon.

But even more I intend to look at the figures in my own mind. That will be a huge task, but a lasting effect of this incredible work.

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C.G. Jung Speaking: interviews and encounters

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This collection of interviews, diary notes, small lectures is notable for one thing: a portrait of Jung via his contemporaries.

The early part concentrates mainly on newspaper and magazine articles written about a man who is starting to intrigue psychologists and lay people alike.

The second moves to extended question and answer sessions more in keeping with the long transcripts of his seminars, plus the well-known BBC interview that brought Jung to the British public at large, remarkably popular among viewers at the time.

That is particularly so in the US, and the first interview crops up in The New York Times in 1912. The interviewer remains anonymous, but the article is lengthy, with Jung’s unexpurgated comments that no doubt caused a few to spit out their coffee over breakfast in a wood-panelled room. For example:

The American husband is very indignant when he comes to me for treatment for neurasthenia or nervous breakdown, and I tell him it is because he is brutal on the one hand and prudish on the other. You have in America the wooden face, just as they have it in England, because you’re trying so hard to hide your emotions and your instincts. (p41, 1980, Picador, ed William McGuire and RFC Hull)

This is classic Jung, typically bold in talking to the American audience. Elsewhere he expounds in simple, brutal style about the wartime dictators, but still to a US audience, to foreign correspondent HR Knickerbocker.

I saw the Duce [Mussolini] and the Führer in Berlin the time Mussolini paid his formal visit; I had the good luck to be placed only a few yards away from them, and could study them well…as I observed Mussolini watching the goose step I could see him enjoying it with the zest of a small boy at a circus…in comparison Hitler made upon me the impression of a sort of scaffolding of wood covered with cloth, an automaton with a mask. During the whole performance he never laughed (p134)

Then there’s the BBC interview with John Freeman, one of Jung’s last public speaking events and notable for Freeman’s probing questions answered by Jung’s equally searing answers. It has some gentle, wise words on ageing, however, as in the following line: “I think it is better for an old person to live on, to look forward to the next day, as if he had to spend centuries, and then he lives properly” (p392).

But what makes this collection is not just the words of Jung, but also those of the people who visit him.

There’s a lovely description by one of Jung’s American proselytisers, Eleanor Bertine in 1948, visiting after the war for the first time: “We well remembered on this return, the majesty of the mountains, but we had almost forgotten the quaint loveliness of every little hamlet” (p173).

And it gets even better, especially when well-known novelists are on hand. The fact that they know very little about Jung – they’re not part of his circle in any way – make the descriptions of the meeting less partial. So Italian writer Alberto Moravia writes:

Here I am on my way to visit C.G. Jung in one of Zurich’s suburbs. Here are the luxurious villas of the banking and commercial bourgeoisie, surrounded by vast gardens…But here, at last is No. 228 Seestrasse, the street of the lake. The rain is pelting down on the yellow leaves of the tree-lined avenue, at the end of which one can see the entrance to the villa. I ring the bell and Jung’s secretary opens the door. In a few minutes Jung himself ushers me through the waiting room into his study (p186-187)

For the description of Jung himself, pick the book up! For it’s marvellously evocative stuff, equalled if not in its technique but certainly in its emotional honesty by the Argentinian Victoria Ocampo:

In October of 1934, on my return from Rome to Paris, I made a detour and stopped in Zurich to see the author of Psychological Types. It was pouring rain that afternoon when in Küsnacht my taxi dropped me, armed with an umbrella, and disarmed with contradictory emotions, before Dr Jung’s door. Was it because of the long hours on the train, the sudden change of temperature, the pain, the proximity of the great man? I don’t know. The fact is, I was aware of the growth and development in me of one of those inferiority complexes which make us feel and play the role of the idiot to perfection.(pp93-94)

Beautiful stuff.

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The Jung-White Letters

White letter

The correspondence between Carl Jung and Victor White covered an important part of both men’s lives.

For Jung, some of his greatest works emerged in the 15 years of writing between the two. Answer to Job, Aion and Flying Saucers appeared during this time.

This was also the period when he touched on sychronicity, astrology and continued his researches into alchemy.

With these works and many more famous tomes in the background, initially, the relationship between the two men was unbalanced. Jung was established as a psychotherapist of repute; Victor White a Catholic priest little known beyond his Oxford milieu.

His earlier letters are verging on sycophancy. In the first (p3) White starts:

Although I have never had the honour to meet you (outside of my dreams!) I am taking the very great liberty of sending you some of my writings concerning your psychology.

Despite this awkward tone, repeated in many ways in later missives from White, I really like this publication from the Philemon Foundation. Yet again they are breaking new ground with an array of Jung material.

Some of the scribbling from Jung’s side are in the previously published Letters, edited by Gerhard Adler. But many aren’t. That, however, is not the only reason for reading this book.

For a start, the editors, Ann Conrad Lammers and Adrian Cunningham, have sought where possible to keep the original style and syntax of the two men. This contrasts with the improvements made by Adler and Hull in the former Letters volume.

They’re less concerned with fluffing up the image of Jung, paying uncritical homage to his works.

But the biggest difference is that both men have a say. In Jung’s letters there is no voice but his own, no sense of what the letter truly is – a response, and a vital cog in an ongoing conversation.

That is lost in the ‘Letters’, where you have to scour the footnotes to find out what is going on.

Strictly speaking, some Jungians might shy away from reading the White part of the letters because this is not the great man speaking. But the effect of including both sides is profound. It offers an ebb and flow and aids both reading and understanding.

The problem, however, is that you have to read White’s inferior thinking and formations! Apologies for this does of intellectual snobbery, but it’s just true.

I am aware of bias in my approach to these letters, and a vast sense of frustration at White’s clinging to his idea of the ‘summun bonnun’, the idea that God is wholly good.

The contortions he goes through to make this fit human psychology leave me scratching my head, as with this (p255) from Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica:

Evil is the privation of good, and in the real world, privation is simply a lack of the opposite positive good…

Eh? As Jung says (p257):

Your quotation from S. Thomas is a marvellous puzzle. I have brooded over it for many hours and I can’t make head or tail of it…

If I’m being honest, I’ll admit that I just want White to shut up and be persuaded. From this point of view it seems incredible that Jung stays in contact, as after ten meetings between the two, and countless letters arguging the case for the shadow – the dark side of man and also of God – White still desists.

You almost find yourself willing Jung to break off the relationship. If White is not going to be pursuaded after a few length talks face-to-face as well as on paper, then it’s just not going to happen, however times you repeat the issue.

White’s attack on Answer to Job is personal, petty and snide:

Remarks about Christian ideas of love and goodness, otherwise unintelligible or merely abusive, become clear commonsense if they be understood as the reactions of a consciousness which, religiously, speaking, has become fixated at the oral phase, for which ‘love’ means the egotistical ‘I want’

It’s the writings of a man who just will not admit his own shadow, and persists himself in the childish belief that all is good, and evil has no substance.

Yet there’s another side to this. Jung, the man used to having his acolytes in Zurich hang on his every word, is in the unusual position of not persuading someone else of his arguments.

And in part this is his issue, that he keeps trying to argue the case when it’s obviously a waste of time.

The frustration of arguing and getting nowhere/not being listened to by his father is echoing again in the interaction.

The fact it’s another failed correspondence with a man – vis a vis Freud and Schmid-Guisan – is relevant. It’s indicative of how he needed to pursuade people of his arguments, especially if they were men.

Ultimately also you have to credit White for providing Jung with the buffeting that inspired the masterpiece Answer to Job, as well as on a slighter scale, Aion.

For that you can thank him, even if you sometimes just want to tell him to belt up!

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Letters 1951-1961

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This volume of Jung’s later letters covers the 10 years in the last period of his life up to his death. It’s a time when the great man’s fame is increasing, but his energy is decreasing by the same token. So that there’s plenty of ‘sorry I can’t comply with your request’ responses!

But he still writes – this is a large volume stretching to 600 pages and beyond. And while Jung is constantly referring to his limitations as old age draws in, it also shows his mind developing in a richer way.

From the sanctuary of Kusnacht and Bollingen Jung finds the time to even respond to unknown correspondents – if their questions sufficiently interest him.

I am sorry you are miserable. ‘Depression’ means literally ‘being forced downwards’. If I had to live in a foreign country, I would seek out one or two people who seemed amiable and would make myself useful to them. I would raise animals and plants and find joy in their thriving. I would surround myself with beauty. I would eat and drink well…Anyway, that is what I would do. What others would do is another question. (p492, to ‘a woman’ in the US)

This is lovely: kind, thoughtful, wise. It’s so very different to the mental acrobatics of so much of his other letters. I must admit, I love it!

Then, there’s sarcasm, as to this unknown correspondent in Chicago, who had stated that “the whole situation would be simplified if we could stop imputing human characteristics to God, and accept the idea that God is Love”:

What an ass I have been not to see how simple things are: God is Love, that is the thing, and the whole of theology can go into the dustbin. Mineralogy is just stones, zoology simply animals, and mythology old fables of no consequence at all.(p556)

I enjoy this change of tone – too often he takes an intellectual approach with so many of the religious figures and philosophers. Here he addresses Dr John Grueson, a biologist at the Academy of Sciences in Washington:

You do not seem to have noticed that I speak of the God image and not of God because it is quite beyond me to say anything about God at all. It is more than astonishing that you have failed to perceive this fundamental distinction.(p260)

No he isn’t saying God actually exists when he postulates a numinous figure. And he’s not trying to create a logical, intellectual pattern, as Jung explains in this missive to Jolande Jacobi.

I always stumble over the frequent use of the term ‘theory’ or ‘system’. Freud has a ‘theory’, I have no ‘theory’ but I describe facts. I do not theorise about neuroses originate, I describe what you find in neuroses. I am talking about and naming facts, and my concepts are mere names and not philosophical terms (p293 Princeton University Press 1975).

This is linked to the fact that Jung always wants to combine the feeling aspect, or the mystical unknown, with thought. Thus he tells an English woman, Maud Oakes, interested in his sculpture work at Bollingen:

Since you want to hear my opinion about your essay on the stone, I should say that I find it a bit too intellectual, as it considers the thought images only, but as I have already called your attention to its ambiente I miss the all-important feeling-tone of the phenomenon…

Stories weave themselves in and out of the collection: the discussion and breakup with Father White, the BBC interview that brought Jung to a wider public in the UK, the question of extra-sensory perception.

By the end you get the sense of a man who is reconciled to old age, but not to the fact that his ideas do not appeared to have been accepted:

Your blessed words are the rays of a new sun over a dark sluggish swamp in which I felt buried. I asked myself time and time again why there are no men in our epoch who could see at least what I was wrestling with. (Herbert Read, p586)

Hopefully this blog shows some more understanding.

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The Zofingia Lectures

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During his undergraduate years at Basel University, Jung delivered a series of lectures to the institute’s branch of the country-wide ‘Zofingia’ society.

Now part of the Collected Works as a ‘supplementary volume’ number 20, they are an early taster of what was to come from the great man.

Given between 1896 and 1899, Jung was 21 for the first one: ‘The Border Zones of Exact Science’. As expected the frat group was big on dining and drinking, but these talks were a compulsory part of membership.

While Jung just listened to what others said during the first year, he soon sprang up to take the floor – as this volume testifies.

It’s short – just five short talks covering around 100 pages in the Routledge edition of 1983. And Maria von Franz is rather dismissive of these early Jung pieces: “I believe that Jung himself would not have cared to publish these juvenilia…”

But I find there is substance in these early lectures of Jung. As the meetings were private affairs, often the language is strong, and the opinions forthright.

We still see educated people in every walk of life – and not least among them physicians and natural scientists – who are not ashamed to proclaim their adherence to materialism, thus bearing witness to their own intellectual poverty

This is the start of Jung’s anti-materialistic stance that he will continue all his life. And he targets the weak point in its argument, namely gravitation.

The law of the conservation of energy tells us that for every force there exists an equivalent force whose decrease is proportional to the increase of the first force. Now let us apply this law to our problems of universal gravitation. Where does the body get its energy? Matter exerts gravitational force because it is a property of matter to exert gravitational force. Once again we confront a collision between reason and reality. Reason demands an equivalent force, reality has none.

It’s a brilliant attack on the scientist who like “materialist-minded savants are croaking away like frogs”.

The second lecture, ‘Some Thoughts on Psychology’ then looks at how science has to be moral – those who think otherwise are sinning against man.

Jung particularly attacks “the cruel torture of animals which is a mockery of all human decency…No truth obtained by unethical means has the right to exist.”

The next lecture is an address on taking on the chairmanship of the club, in which he talks about the need for leadership – something he would later shift his position away from.

Then in number four ‘Thoughts on the Nature and Value of Speculative Inquiry’ Jung expounds on his need to understand the world and his mind, which leads into how essentially there are certain things that man can’t understand.

At bottom, ie in itself, everything that exists moves within one and the same world. The absolute realm is not divided into two distinct realms. All is One. A separation exists only in relation to us, because our sense organs are capable of perceiving only specific areas of the world-as-absolute.

This split is the human world of the senses and suffering, and this takes us into the fifth lecture, ‘Thoughts on the Interpretation of Christianity, with Reference to the Theory of Albrecht Ritschl’.

Ritschl was a German Protestant theologian who denied any mystical element to religion. In other words like a red rag to Jung’s theories of religion.

For Jung he sums up all those religious folk who believes God lives outside, rather than in the psyche:

Ritchl’s Christian knows that his God exists only in church, school and home. And it is to this powerless God that a Christian is supposed to pray for salvation from bodily and spiritual want? God cannot lift a finger, for he exists only historically, and in a strictly limited sense

Jung concludes: “no religion will ever survive without mystery” – and that will guide him for the next 50-plus years.

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Dream Analysis Seminar 1928-1930

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In early November 1928 Jung embarked on a series of seminars that took place once a week, with seasonal breaks for about a month.

The group met in the rooms of the ivy-clad, turreted Zurich Psychological Club, a mansion bought by Edith Rockefeller McCormick for the Club’s use.

No tuition was paid, and all members had been analysed by Jung, or were analysts in Zurich.

The seminars were part of what was to turn into a series of themed meetings. They ended in October 1930, but Jung opened another English language based series, Interpretation of Visions, the first part of which I’ve already written about.

I have to say that in my opinion these seminars benefit from the fact that RFC Hull only managed to edit half of this Dream Analysis seminar; the rest is thanks to the light touch of William McGuire. Gone are the over-bearing footnotes that so dominate Hull’s Collected Works; gone too the faux-intellectualism of his comments.

Instead there’s a clear exposition of the dream and vision sequence of a formerly successful businessman, a chap in his mid 40s.

It truly is extraordinary how much Jung extracts from the dreams of one man: the volume runs to over 700 pages. And his journey is from clear, rational thinking of the professional man, to the opening up of his personality.

As the treatment proceeds (dream number 15) the patient has a dream about a cherry tree:

I am standing under a cherry tree looking at the ripe, very big red cherries. I say to myself ‘it is worthwhile. Then I see that my children are collecting the immmature fruits that have fallen off the tree, in a little basket. I say to them: ‘These cherries do not belong to us and they are not ripe.’ I throw them again under the tree on the ground. I notice a little girl of about two years among the children. She says: ‘I too havea cherry tree of which I am very proud. She wants to show it to me, and leads me through the bushes to a quite young tree, and she speaks with the same intonation that my wife has in her voice when she speaks to little children.[p247, Routledge 1984]

In this dream is contained the seeds if you’ll pardon the pun, for so much of what subsequently develops. There’s a powerful sequence in which Jung amplifies a few elements to his audience.

First of all, the idea of the cherries that are not ripe is that of the old ways, the old parts of the patient that are dying as he changes – you have to cast off some things that die for new things to grow.

Then there’s something really new about the dream. So far all of them have been about his work in cotton trading. But here “the unconscious has shifted the scenery and insists on an entirely new aspect”, says Jung [p248].

Now in this dream he is confronted with a new problem, the growth of a tree, in which he has never been interested because he can buy the fruit in the market. But it is as though he could not buy the beauty of a tree full of fruit. He says: ‘it is worthwhile’.

This is the start of the development of the man away from his purely rational self, to recognising a larger world.

And the journey takes him through his anima as well, which here is immature, shown as a two-year-old girl that needs development. This is at the heart of the problems with his wife, who won’t have sex with him, we see largely because of his mechanistic, rational attitude to sex and non-developed relation to his female side, and therefore to women.

Ultimately, we arrive at something I’ve never seen Jung write about before. On page 606 he talks about arriving at a state of understanding where all four functions – sensation, thinking, intuition and feeling – are conscious. Like four mirrors, you reflect on each of the previous ones so that you can see what you are doing and how you are behaving.

As long as man has but one function, he is just aware that he can do something, but he is always up against an overwhelming psychological condition, the three in the unconscious. Then he acquires a second function and becomes mroe complete. The third function makes a second mirror. He can say: ‘I see this fellow here who is watching that chap down there, and I see how he thinks [watching the thinking function] and that he makes the wrong conclusion. With a fourth function there would be still more consciousness [p608]

And so you have a kind of complete reflection, where you take back all projections. This though, is a kind of deeath, certainly more of an Eastern “non-doing [or wu wei]…for instance the American concept of efficiency would surely be rather injured by the wu wei principle…but the American efficiency is far more destructive than the Eastern lack of it [p621]”

Which brings us back to his original issue with a mindset obsessed with efficiency, unable to live the fuller life of emotion and beauty. And as an expression of Jung’s keeness that we recognise the interior life, rather than just passing exteriors, it is unsurpassed.

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