Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Journeying with Jung 4

In this post I wish to continue my journey with Jung by tracing it chapter by chapter in Ronald Hayman's great book alluded to in the last three posts.


Chapter 3:  Such a Wicked Thought:

Of all the activities at the Gymnasium (secondary school) at Basel Carl Gustave Jung hated gymnastics as he hated being told how to move.  He also had a dislike of mathematics but passed because he had such a prodigious memory.  He loved animals, flowers, geology and fossils.  He was also an inveterate reader and literally devoured books he took at random from his father's library.  He read freely and widely as mood and interest took him.  This characteristic he kept all through life - an extremely wide voracious appetite for reading everything and anything.  This fact about Jung has always enthralled and fascinated me - his prodigious knowledge, gained mainly from reading.

The Shitting God and other Secrets:

I find this episode from Jung's early life fascinating indeed.  There are two accounts of the "Shitting God" episode - one recounted as a dream and another recounted as a daydream, but both obviously refer to the one instance.  The scene of the daydream or dream is the cathedral square in the city of Basel.  It was a sunny day and God is pictured sitting on a golden throne and he then squats over the cathedral and drops a great turd which shatters its dome.  This dream is interesting when one considers the fact the the young Carl was surrounded by clergy and church on all sides as it were - eight of his uncles and his father all being clergy men.  Needless to say the boy was frightened by the vivid destruction and awful disgust of this dream - here one had the most sublime being of all defecating on a veritable holy of holies - his very own church. Hayman gives the following insight into this amazing dream or daydream:

The octogenarian Jung still believed that in assigning the thought to him, God had been selecting his for a special relationship.  But the belief may originally have been no more than a consolation prize Carl awarded himself.  What he would have preferred was a loving relationship with two parents who loved each other.  But this was a secret he kept even from himself.  (Opus citatum, 18-19)

This dream, along with a dream of a giant penis Carl kept to himself, needless to say.  He also had a homosexual experience which he related a little about in a letter to Freud.  All these things were to be secrets for the greater part of his life.  The sexual experience is somewhat ambiguous and is rendered into English by two divergent translations, viz., "When I was a boy I submitted to a man I once venerated," and "I suffered a sexual assault from..."  However, Erik Erikson points out that the original German means "I laid under," that is, "I submitted."  (see ibid., 20)   Hayman underscores the secretive nature of these events:

Although the penis dream, the fantasy about a shitting God and the manikin game were crucial to his imaginative world, he never talked about them.  After the abortive attempt to confide in Freud about the homosexual episode, he remained equally silent about that.  The dream remained a secret until he was in his sixty-sixth year, and he never confided in his wife about the fantasy or the manikin game till late in their marriage.  (Ibid., 21)

Jung's Two Personalities or Sub-Personalities:

When he was a young schoolboy Carl Gustave thought of himself as having two personalities.  These he called simple Number 1 and Number 2.  Let me return again here to Hayman's succinct summary of this:

He went back again to the idea that had presented itself when he was told off for standing up in the boat.  He consisted of two people.  As a schoolboy he was inferior to classmates who worked harder, paid more attention to teachers, washed more often and dressed more neatly.  But his other personality - he called it number 2 - had the wisdom of a mature man.  Sceptical and mistrustful, he preserved his detachment from other people, but not from nature.  Carl's lifeline depended on his system of splitting himself.

Number Two had power and authority, but Number One was too shy to let him display them...But, as before, most of his reading was unconnected with schoolwork.  (Ibid., 22)

Jung, throughout his life, insisted that these two distinct personalities had nothing to do with the medical sense and meaning of 'dissociation.'  Hayman is unconvinced, as I am, and quotes R.D Laing's description of the schizoid self in his famous book The Divided Self (1960).

Then, Hayman indicates that his mother acted in a "weird" way by confiding deep secrets concerning her and her husband to the eleven year old boy.  This, of course, is hardly "normal" behaviour for a parent:

She made alarming allegations, only to change the story next time she told it.  Carl was baffled by her duality.  In the daytime she was a loving mother, but at night she seemed weird.  (Ibid., 23)

First Love and Confirmation:

Carl played a lot with his first cousins. especially the children of his mother's brother Samuel Preiswerk.  Samuel's wife bore her husband some fifteen children.  The seventh sibling, Luise (Luggy) was Carl's favourite and Jung described her as his first love, though he never told her this.  His relationship with his father was poor and impersonal to say the least.  Carl simply failed to confide in him and even to understand what the man was about in life.  Paul, the father, chose to prepare his own son for his confirmation.  However, his presentation of the catechism did not inspire the son who felt the whole contents of it to be boring and insipid.  Having never understood the Trinity, he was looking forward  to his father's explanation.  However, according to Carl, this is all the good pastor said on that topic: "We're now coming to the Trinity, but we'll skip that because I don't understand anything about it."  (quoted ibid., 25)   This was a complete disappointment to the son because it showed that his father was lacking in intelligence and also in imagination.  After his Confirmation Jung recounts that he felt no difference at all about himself except that he had a new black suit with tails.

Philosophical Reading:

As a teenager Carl read voraciously, especially in philosophy and mentions how he read Pythagoras, Heraclitus, Empedocles, Plato, Meister Eckhart, Aquinas and Hegel.  He liked all these with the exception of the last two quoted here and was positively excited by SchopenhauerGoethe, Nietzsche, Schopenhauer and Kant made lasting impressions on his young mind.

Somewhat later Carl recounts that when he was around 18 he realised that his father had lost his faith.  In fact he says that he overheard the old man praying to God for the restoration of his faith.  As well as that the pastor had become almost unbearable to live with and would lose his temper very easily.  He recounts also that his father had said:  "The boy is interested in everything under the sun but doesn't know what he wants." (Quoted ibid., 27)  Unlike his father Carl Gustave felt that he had a personal experience of divine grace during what Hayman refers to as "the protracted period of schizoid solitude."  (Ibid., 26)

Above Jung sitting by the lakeside at Bollingen.

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