Sunday, October 12, 2008

Journeying with Jung 14



Those Bewitching Women: 

Before I begin my reflections on this chapter, I wish momentarily to refer to Jung's obsession with the fairer sex.  In January 1910 Jung began an affair with Maria Moltzer, a nurse at the psychiatric hospital of Burgholzli - she was a strong-minded woman, a year older than he.  During this period he agreed with Emma to have another child and wrote to Freud stating the very unorthodox and counter-cultural idea that "It seems to be that the prerequisite for a good marriage is licence to be unfaithful."  ( Quoted, Hayman, 126)

Chapter 13:  Sleepless Nights:

This chapter covers the period August to November 1910 when Jung was 35 years old.   During this period he read voraciously everything he could lay his hands on in the field of mythology and ancient culture much against Freud's advice.

A Preliminary note on Apollo and Dionysus:

Of all the Olympian deities Apollo is one of the most important and he fulfilled many roles, viz., youthful ideals; god of light and sun; truth and prophecy; archery; medicine and healing; music; poetry and the arts in general.  Hence he is particularly many-sided and comprehensive in his powers.  He had a twin sister called Artemis who was the chaste huntress.  He is the son of Zeus, the father of all the gods, and Leto.  He became also to be known widely as the patron of Delphi, i.e., he became the oracular god supreme.  However, in later literary contexts Apollo has come to to be the ultimate representative of Harmony, Order and Reason.  He represents the Greek ideal of the Golden Mean - moderation in all things and virtue in action.

In mentioning these three qualities one is immediately forced to mention the role of Dionysus in striking contrast.  Indeed the two are very often mentioned together to put the tension between both in context.  Dionysus represents Disharmony, Disorder and Ecstasy or Excess. He represents over-indulgence in both eating and drinking - gluttony. Indeed, we have inherited the two wonderful adjectives Apollonian and Dionysian from these two wonderfully colourful deities. 

The Influence of Nietzsche:

Jung was temperamentally, intellectually and spiritually growing apart from Freud all this while, and nothing illustrated this drift apart than his reading widely the philosophy of Nietzsche.  Both these men, unlike Freud the Jew, were sons of clergymen who died young and also of women who descended from generations of priests.  Jung grew up Basel where Nietzsche had been a professor at the university and stated in a letter that he 'grew up in an atmosphere still vibrating from the impact of his teachings.' (quoted Hayman, 132)

While Nietzsche may not have been a believer in God he still retained a religious temperament in the romantic sense of that word, while Freud was a militant atheistJung took to Nietzsche like a duck to water because the latter's work was steeped in mythology, a subject very close to his heart.  Hayman is interesting here:

Unlike Judaism and Christianity, Greek myth 'deified all forms into significant humanity.'  There was no ascetism in it:  The Olympian gods sanctified both good and evil.  In the plays of Aeschylus and Sophocles, the hero had always, according to Nietzsche, been Dionysus confronting Apollo.In one note Nietzsche quotes the primitive German belief that all gods must die.  He cherished 'the hope for rebirth of a Dionysus.  Then everything will be Dionysus.'  (Op. cit., 134-135)

 

The Influence of Friedrich Max Muller:

Muller was a famous Sanskrit scholar who popularised the term Aryans and argued that all mythological systems from wherever in the world were based on the orbiting of the earth around the sun. Needless to say there is much mention of the sun being associated with many gods within the pantheons of the many different traditions and mythologies.  The words "fire" and "sun" are consequently linked with the vital force of life within us, with the "libido" (a word Freud used) and this "fire" readily represents, I believe, the very soul or heart of life.

Hence Jung built up his unorthodox notions of the role of "God" or "gods" in human life.  He was fascinated by the notion of a God being simultaneously Creator and Destroyer and an equation of God=Father=Son=Fire.

At this juncture Freud wrote to Jung warning him against over-generalization or as it put it interpreting 'the whole facade'.  This I find quite funnily ironic as this was one of Freud's own major flaws.  He was wary of Jung's breadth of reading in the ancient mythologies and warned him that it was important to take context into account.

Sabina appears on the scene again:

This time Dr Bleuler appoints Jung to read Sabina's Doctoral Thesis on schizophrenia.  Needless to say the old affair bubbled up into life once again.  Her thesis, he reported, had "thrown him into raptures" because it proved that psychotic thought mechanisms corresponded to patterns in myths while she was afraid to read his work 'fearful of being enslaved by emotion all over again.'  (Quoted ibid., 135)  While all this was going on, Maria Moltzer, the nurse, was still on the scene, while two other ladies were quite besotted with him, another Russian girl whose thesis he was also supervising, namely Esther Aptekmann and a patient in the hospital called Martha Boddinghaus.  (See ibid., 135)

According to Hayman this is what Jung's take on his affair with Sabina and his supervision of her thesis meant for him:

Trying to awaken religious and mythological ideas in her, he was making his first experiment in countering neurosis by alerting patients to the presence of the numinous.  But with Sabina, he inflamed both her desire for him and his for her.  (Ibid., 139)

The Death Wish:

Freud had also dealt with this idea though Jung and indeed Sabina both thought of it as very important in the human psyche.  However, Sabina had a take on it from her Doctoral Thesis and other papers which she was afraid Jung might steal from her and write about.

Nietzsche had written: 'Whoever wants to be creative in good and evil must first be an annihilator and destroy values,' but Jung excitedly thought he and Sabina had discovered that what looks like destruction may be creation: something must die for something else to be born...Mentally, thanks to strength, intelligence and determination, they had both achieved a kind of rebirth from a kind of death, and they both believed that in schizophrenia[hrenia, consciousness gives way to archaic patterns of thought when the rational ego is overpowered.  In her essay 'Destruction as a Cause of Coming into Being' she said the two basic drives were for self-preservation and for the preservation of the species through sexuality... (Ibid., 137)

Wishing to follow her own independent path, both in life and psychiatry, she left Zurich after filing her thesis.  Her result was so good that it confirmed her in her belief that she was destined to achieve something exceptional in psychiatry.



Above I have uploaded a picture of an Ancient Roman statue of Dionysus (also known as Bacchus), god of wine, leaning on a herme (c. 150 AD, Prado, Madrid).

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