Friday, October 24, 2008

Journeying with Jung 21

Cooking in the Rain: Chapter 20

I have already argued that Jung was essentially romantic in inclination.  There is much - in terms of sympathies, intuitions and sensibilities - I find in Jung that occurs in the writings of the great German and English Romantic writers like Heinrich Heine, G.W.F. Hegel, Schelling, Schlegel, Fichte on the German front and Wordsworth, Keats, Shelley and Coleridge on the English one.  Then there was the likes of Jean-Jacques Rousseau in the world of Romantic France.  They were all believers, to use an anachronistic phrase, in the philosophy of 'back to nature.'  Jung was a big subscriber to this belief in the healing power of the natural elements.  He built his houses by the sides of lakes at Kusnacht and Bollingen.  He was an outdoors man who loved boats, sailing, camping, hiking and tramping in the woods and mountains, fishing in rivers and lakes, keeping a garden, building walls and even his very own retreat at Bollingen.  Hence the aptness of the title of this present chapter - "Cooking in the Rain."  The elements were to be enjoyed and borne stoically and "gone with" rather than fought against.

Throughout this chapter I was very much reminded of Rousseau's noble savage :- Rousseau, who among the major political philosophers of the Enlightenment is often cited as espousing the most sympathetic version of the noble savage myth when he states  that men in a state of nature do not know good and evil, but their independence, along with “the peacefulness of their passions, and their ignorance of vice”, keep them from doing ill (A Discourse..., 71-73).  See this link for an essay on this idea of the noble savage: Rousseau.  When Jung was comparing primitive and modern man, this is what he said:

The only difference is that where the primitive speaks of ghosts, the European speaks of dreams and fantasies and neurotic symptoms, and attributes less importance to them than the primitive does.  (Hayman, 222)

Jung with his deep belief in psychoanalysis - that is psychoanalysis as reworked and interpreted in his scheme of things - saw how important it was to be at home with one's Self, with one's personal unconscious; to be equally at home in the collective unconscious by exploring and accepting all the various archetypes and sub-personalities; to be accepting of all the shadows in the depths of the human psyche; to be alive to all the spiritual intuitions that humankind is heir to; to finding meaning and purpose in life, in short to find some level of integration of the Self or as he put it himself - individuation.

In line with this he pointed out that the general neurosis of the age, and remember he was speaking these words in 1918, was 'the senselessness and aimlessness of our lives.'  (Quoted Hayman, 217)  Exactly ninety years ago he wrote these words - we could just be hearing or reading them in the contemporary media.  Jung was 43 years old and very much a middle aged man as they would have put it the beginning of the twentieth century.  Jung preached and practised a new analysis or therapy, namely 'the integration of opposites' into a harmonious whole.  As Hayman so beautifully puts it:

He concentrated on what he called 'individuation - the process of fulfilling potential by integrating opposites into a harmonious whole.  He idea of mental health derived partly  from memories of the splitting in his mother's personality and his own, and partly from memories of sub-personalities in spiritualism and schizophrenia.  If madness divides the self, sanity is unity. (Ibid., 217)

Therefore, Jung's process or procedure or method was that which sought to reunite the scattered fragments of the individual into an integrated whole.  This gives, for me, a new and deep understanding of the phrase "getting oneself together."  These splintered and scattered parts of the self were shown up more obviously in psychosis and perhaps less obviously in the many kinds of neuroses humankind is heir to.  In this sense, then, we can readily understand Jung's often quoted comment "Thank God he or she became neurotic."

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