Sunday, September 28, 2008

Journeying with Jung 6



Chapter 5: Magnetic Passes:

More Séances:

As I've already pointed out Jung, given his unorthodox upbringing - with an orthodox father who had "lost" his belief and a mother who was probably "hysterical" in the classical sense of the word and in contact with the "other side" or the spiritual world - was open to the influence of the para-psychological or the  occult world.  Hence the séances continued with him as the facilitator.  His young cousin Helly was still besotted with her older and good-looking cousin.  Hayman recounts how Jung had given his impressionable cousin the book by Kerner - The Visionary of Prevorst on her fifteenth birthday.  Needless to say she read this tome since it was given her by her hero and used many of the insights into the "other world" gained therefrom.  As our learned author says succinctly: "The séances still had a sexual undertone - the precocious Helly found new ways of competing with Luggy for Jung's attention - and they now had strong religious overtones." (Op. cit., 40)

It is beyond the scope of this post to say much about these séances, but suffice it to say the young Helly devised intricate plots which went on like a serial television programme or soap opera.  Needless to say the young fifteen year old was exhausted at the end of each session.

All of this might appear odd and melodramatic to a twenty-first-century mind, but as Helly continued with her performance she began to believe in the world conjured up by her own imagination:  "No less than an actress, a medium can imagine her way into almost total identification with the character.  As he said later, describing the seances in his doctoral thesis, the unconscious personality that builds itself up 'owes its existence simply to the suggestive questions that strike an answering chord in the medium's own disposition.' "  (Ibid., 41)

Magnetic Passes:

Magnetism here refers to the power used in hypnotism.  It may have been as the result of their both reading Kerner's The Visionary of Prevorst that Jung decided that hypnotizing Helly would help her as a medium during the seances. Jung's total unorthodoxy, I believe lies in  trying to reconcile science with spiritualism  even when he had by now rejected orthodox Christianity and materialism which was the direct product both of the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution. The paradox lies in a so-called "scientific" doctor or "empirical" psychiatrist/psychologist trying to reconcile the opposites of spiritualism and the scientific method.  In this hard task the work of philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)  came to his rescue.  Let us allow Hayman to explain:

...Jung read Schopenhauer's comments on spiritualism. 'Anyone who nowadays doubts the facts of animal magnetism and the clairvoyance it confers must be regarded not as sceptical but as ignorant.'  Schopenhauer believed in a 'dream organ' that functioned during both sleep and consciousness, introducing into the world of phenomena impressions rooted in noumena.' 'The dream organ of two people can be involved in the same activity, wherein a ghost...takes on the appearance of a body.'  This organ would be at work during trances, and to induce them by hypnotism would be to invite intimacy between the dream organs of the hypnotist and the medium.  (Ibid., 44)

Spiritualism, Metaphysics and a little Theology:

As a young medical student of 22 years, lecturing to a student audience at the University of Basel (a student group called the Zofingia Society), Jung underscored his belief in the world of the spirits by quoting an essay by Kant - almost totally out of context as it happens - and the books of Schopenhauer to support his contentions.  He argued that 'We must fight crass sensualism with the weapons of transcendental truth...Religions are created by men who have given practical demonstrations of the reality of mystery and the "extrasensory sphere." '  Defining soul, in a definition I quite like - remember he was only 22 - as "an intelligence independent of space and time," Jung argued that he was here providing "empirical evidence substantiating our definition of the soul." (Ibid., 45)   In other words he took it as a given, then, that one could research scientifically into the spiritual world and hence into metaphysics.

Anyway, it may be quite surprising that our learned psychiatrist encouraged his young fifteen year old cousin Helly to believe that the dead were actually speaking through her.  Hayman goes on to list those other scientists and early psychologists who believed that the spiritual world could be accessed by us left behind in the world, viz., William James in the USA and Sir William Crookes in London.  It is interesting to note also that Jung condemned those theologians who tried to explain away all the mysteries of religion and to deny the possibility of intimate communication with God.  Indeed, I well remember my lectures in orthodox catholic theology from the late 1970s which stated that although "Self-consciousness was the locus of revelation, that revelation could only be accessed through and authenticated by the living community of believers, which essentially equated with the Roman Catholic Church."  This is as I recall it, not verbatim, but in substance having studied theology to postgraduate level - i.e., S.T.L. level.  Hence the "privileged access to the truth" is ruled out on the part of any believer.  I am now at one with Carl Gustave Jung - if God exists, or any spiritual power or energy that equates to such a being, then it is simply ridiculous to deny the possibility of intimate communication with this Source.  Indeed, I am also firmly convinced that for the Church, indeed any Church, knowledge is power and correct orthodox knowledge is power wielded to keep the faithful loyal and unswerving believers in its promulgated tenets.

Return to Experience:

Essentially a Romantic at heart and an empiricist by self-profession Jung believed that nothing that could not be validated by one's personal experiences was allowable in scientific discourse about the mind: At sixty this is what he had to say on this matter:

My chief curiosity was always the question:  What does the human mind, inasmuch as it is a natural involuntary functioning, produce if left to itself?... Whatever my statements are, they are always based upon experiences, and whatever I say is never intended to contradict or to defend an existing truth.  Its sole purpose is to express what I believe I have seen.  (Quoted ibid., 46)

Indeed, it is somewhat paradoxical for us twenty-first-century-moulded beings to square Jung's constant self-profession of empiricism with his very arcane, if not primitive spiritualism.  However, the fact that spiritualism may be both these contentions in no way invalidates its existence.  I am merely here pointing up obvious paradoxes and seeming contradictions.

Choosing Psychiatry:

Jung graduated as a Doctor from Basel University at the age of 25.  Even though psychiatry was looked upon as an inferior branch of medicine, he chose it, because having read the standard contemporary textbook on the subject by Richard von Krafft-Ebing - Lehrbuch der Psychiatrie - which describes neuroses as "diseases of the personality" - he was convinced that his only possible route was that of psychiatry:

'Here was the field of experience common to biological and spiritual facts, which I had sought everywhere and had not found.  Here finally, was the place where nature would collide with spirit.' (Ibid., 50)

Also, it has been suggested that what really motivated his decision to study the subject was uncertainty about hereditary mental illness in his family.



Above an aged Jung with his ubiquitous pipe.

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