Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Journeying with Jung 25

Dark-Faced Men:  Chapter 23

I have already described in detail Jung's preoccupation with primitive man who was far more true to his instincts and to his real self according to him.  Modern man had built up many cultural layers that suffocated the real person or real self within.  These are my words and my understanding of Jung - not his.  However, I feel I am at the heart of his thoughts here.  The title of this chapter then captures this preoccupation, bordering on obsession, in Jung's life and thought.

On the fifth of January, 1925 (he was now 50) Jung in the company of Fowler McCormick and George Porter visited Taos New Mexico where he met native American Indians and he enjoyed his conversations with them.  On the 15th of October in the same year he travelled with Peter Baynes and George Beckwith to Africa.  They arrived in Mombasa on the 12th of November.  I have mentioned both these journeys to convey to the reader Jung's deep interest in things primitive - being, in his opinion, closer to the real essence of humankind.  The man to whom he spoke in Taos was a Pueblo Indian named Ochwiay Biano - Blue Mountain Lake.  Of him, the psychiatrist, related that  he could talk to him as he "had seldom spoken to a European."  (Hayman, 257)    In Africa he spent some weeks with the Elgonyi people in Kenya.  Central Africa made a deep impression on him and he thought of his weeks with the Elgonyi as 'one of the loveliest times of my life... Thousands of miles separating me from Europe, the mother of all devils, who could not reach me here - no telegrams, no telephone calls, no letters...My liberated spiritual forces flowed happily back into primeval expanses."  (Quoted ibid., 269) 

Jung was a strong and brave man with loads of common sense and this is illustrated well on this African trip.  Hayman gives a prime example of his strength of character, common sense and appraisal of danger.  In at least one situation the wily psychiatrist saved their lives.  In a Sudan village a local chief invited them to a dance, but the said chief arrived  with a retinue of sixty men, armed to the teeth with clubs, swords and lances.  I'll let Hayman take up the rest of the story:

When Jung signalled it was time to stop, the chief ignored him, even when he made signs to indicate sleep.  He then swung his whip threateningly, giving a friendly laugh at the same time, and - knowing that he would not be understood - swore at the top of his voice in Swiss German.

The natives laughed, stopped dancing and gradually dispersed...The whip-cracking and the swearing in Swiss German had probably saved their lives.  According to the district commissioner, two white men had recently been killed by the tribe.  (Ibid., 269-270)

Too Many Suicides:

Given that Jung plied his trade as a psychiatrist and therapist it is not surprising that many of the people who came to him as patients were in some way disturbed.  Furthermore, it is no less surprising to find that a number of them took their own lives.  Some of these even had become very friendly with Jung.  On the 24th of February 1925 Joseph Medill McCormick, American politician, newspaper owner and friend, the father of young Fowler who had accompanied Jung in visiting the Pueblo Indians, killed himself.  George Porter, another wealthy American business man, art collector and philanthropist - the same George Porter who had accompanied him on and financed the trip to the Pueblo Indians in Taos - shot himself exactly two years later - 1927.  The wife of another friend - Peter Baynes - who accompanied him on the trip to Africa killed herself shortly before the expedition.  I'll let Hayman take up the story:

Baynes's second wife was so passionately against his going on the expedition that she threatened to commit suicide if he went.  Baynes discussed her with Jung, who advised him to ignore her threats.  He did so, and she killed herself while he was packing.  Which did not stop him from accompanying Jung on the trip.  What Baynes could not control was his depression, which was stressful for the other two men.  (Ibid 266)

It is interesting, and not a little strange, that the trip went ahead given this sad occurrence.  It appears at this distance that the death of this unfortunate woman was only a slight mishap somewhere on the periphery of the great journey into darkest Africa as it were. 

There are still other interesting facts and ideas that I wish to comment on in this chapter but it is getting to late and my brain has almost slowed to a halt - it is 2 A.M. -  I will finish my musings thereon tomorrow.

Above a picture I took of a fountain at Nicastro, Calabria in July 2006

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