new year, new sources

Posted on December 30, 2009. Filed under: Jung, Reading | Tags: , |

Supposed  to be taking a break as my brain got too mashed to write coherent sentences before xmas – knew it was all going downhill, as if writing with fingers disconnected from thoughts, which had disconnected from feelings… not very much in the spirit of this journey!

But found Christopher Hauke’s book ‘Human Being Human:  culture and the soul’ a wonderful, rejuvenating read, rich in allusion to film and rooted in a Jungian sense of the human condition. Noted particularly his challenge to the marginalisation of intellect by aspects of psychotherapy – yes, glad to reclaim the mind, as long as it isn’t the only source of insight or information about the self or the world. Also referred to the ‘fantasy of wholeness’ which made me think about whether my thesis rests on such a fantasy, or how I might modify this to reflect the difference between the wholeness which I do believe underpins everything and  the partial and limited efforts which most of us are capable of making. Also to become aware of the danger of eliding differences which require attention – a tendency I always opposed in my political animal days; that dreary ‘let’s all be friends’ motif that belongs more fully to pop songs than ethical philosophy.

But underneath that, there is a unity, a coherent energy that can be seen in quantum physics at the subatomic level and in Hubble photos at the macro level and which can also be called divine. Bud Harris (see link to website) is giving a talk about wholeness and Holy longing from a Jungian perspective, which sounds appealing.  I say sounds appealing but am becoming aware of  different flavours of Jungian – those who take a romantic new age approach and those who are asking similar questions about being human and the role  of transcendence but seem more capable of recognising human awkwardness and the trickiness of such endeavours. Hauke reflects the latter group I think – more my cup of tea.

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Nietzsche – good for a laff

Posted on September 11, 2008. Filed under: Reading | Tags: |

I suspect Nietzsche is one of those writers you absorb by cultural osmosis – through rock lyrics and T shirts and graffiti (my favourite being the one about the abyss looking back) – on which basis I have always assumed him to be a miserable bastard, the Leonard Cohen of philosophers. But then I adore Mr Cohen (Edinburgh castle concert = highlight of 08) and don’t find him remotely depressing. Perhaps when young, the relentless gaze into the bleakness is associated with a doomy romanticism but, decades on, the bleakness makes me laugh.

So I had no idea I’d find Nietzsche funny, but it now makes perfect sense. Kafka is funny too – and I got his humour as an undergraduate.

Picked him up as he’s an important influence on Jung and tho I’ve only read Beyong Good and Evil (BG&E) so far, can already see why. Partly the style – conversational, aphoristic, full of asides and en passant observations – which can be found in late Jung, like Memories, Dreams and Reflections. It is so NOT academic, reflecting a time and culture perhaps where a thinker’s insights were declared, or offered, without a peppering of references and footnotes. Not that N writes in a vacuum, there are many references to contemporaries and predecessors, just that he doesn’t bolster his own claims with citations. There’s a freedom here, which allows for battiness and ghastiliness – the dismissal of women in BG&E for one – but also marvellousness.

I loved the quality of writing – as translated by Hollingdale in the Penguin Classic – in phrases like:

We Europeans of the day after tomorrow, we first-born of the twentieth century – with all our dangerous curiosity, our multiplicity and art of disguise, our mellow and as it were sugared cruelty in spirit and senses…………….

Sugared cruelty!

Somewhere else he talks about the English church – which makes Sundays so tedious the population long for Monday morning and work….

However most of the quotes I’ve harvested are to do with morality and ethics and this is where the connection to Jung really  kicks in. N forensically exposes the cant & hypocrisy of his age & particularly religion, showing how it creates ‘slave’ morality of conformism and abdication of personal responsibility. And while his Ubermensch solution is not mine or Jung’s, his critique of the culture clearly resonates with Jung’s rejection of his bourgeois background and generations since (my own background was pure bohemian, so harder to reject, but I still identify with the spirit of it all). He also talks frequently about the psychology of morality, helping create the space for Jung, and others, to explore fundamental approaches to ethics and being.


For to translate man back into nature; to master the many vain and fanciful interpretations and secondary meanings which have been hitherto scribbled and daubed over that eternal basic text ‘homo natura’; to confront man henceforth with man in the way in which , hardened by the discipline of science, man today confronts the rest of nature……that may be a strange and extravagant task but it is a task – who would deny that?

His struggle for core meaning echoes that of Jung and both accept the centrality of spirituality or the transcendent, containing the union of opposites. Because N also proposes, as is implied by the title, the rejection of the good/bad duality that characterizes most religion and this is at the heart of my own ‘take’ on Jung as an ethicist: that wholeness, reality, authenticity (all loaded words that need unpacking) is a truer (ditto) basis for ethics than observance of others’ rules. Dangerous stuff tho – be careful where it leads…….

Note to self: Jung states he was most influenced by Twilight of the Gods and Thus Spake Zarathustra, so those come next, along with various books, chapters and papers on the connection between these two thinkers. Must be careful not to get too sidetracked  as this relationship is not a central theme, but a way of setting Jung in his intellectual and philosophical context.

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