Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Journeying with Jung 38



Chapter 32: Trinity + Devil = Quaternity:

Once again here we have an interesting chapter title.  It points up Carl Gustave Jung's continuing obsession with mythology and symbolism as found and reflected in the collective unconscious.  He had long declared that mythology in general reflects the contents of the collective unconscious and vice versa.  This chapter covers the period from  8 March 1940 until November 1943 - some three and a half years.  However I wish to start at the end of that period with a little incident that shows the true character of the venerable man in question.

The Outraged Old Man - with a hurt Ego:

When our integrity and/or intelligence are called into question we are singularly affronted.  It was a great affront to Jung to have been criticised by a Swiss philosophy student who had reviewed his new book, Problems of the Unconscious in Der Zurcher Student.  This young man's name was Arnold Künzli (1919, Zürich - 2008) and he was a political writer, philosopher and radical democrat. It was February 1943 and Arnold was only 24 and he had the audacity to accuse Jung of being a romantic who often gave vent to his ideas at the expense  of 'scientific empiricism.'  (see Hayman, 377)  Jung's ego was hurt and he shared this outrage with Freud.  They had both looked upon themselves as scientists who sought to base their ideas on empirical data.  Quite obviously the Social and Psychological Sciences overlap somewhat with the Natural Sciences, but they also share much with the World of the Arts where a lot of the human experiences described are often undefinable and intractable in a more clinical and scientific laboratory setting.   This very much goes without saying today.  However, neither Freud nor Jung would have any of this type of nuanced thinking as regards science.  As far as they were concerned, they were scientists on a par with chemists or physicists and that was that. Hayman points out that in his letters to the young philosopher, the venerable psychiatrist had defended himself with more vigour than dignity.  Indeed the old man mentioned that he had received seven honorary doctorates and had asked his accuser to state where he had been unscientific.  Let's listen to the old man's diatribe which has some little wisdom behind his outrage:

...answering a second letter in which Künzli posed psychological questions, Jung denounced 'that moaner Kierkegaard,' together with Heidegger, James Joyce, Hegel and Nietzsche, who 'drips with outraged sexuality.'  Philosophy had still to learn it was 'made by human beings and depends to an alarming extent on their psychic constitution... There is no thinking qua thinking, at times it is a pisspot of unconscious devils... Neurosis addles the brain of every philosopher because he is at odds with himself.'  But this lesson had already been learned.  Nietzsche says every philosophy is an autobiographical statement.  (Hayman, 378)

During the years covered in this chapter, 1940-1943, Jung had given his last lecture on Loyola at the Polytechnic in Zurich; had holidayed in Ascona with rich American friends and disciples, the Mellons; had resigned as president of The International General Medical Society; had given the Eranos lecture on the Trinity; had begun lectures at the Polytechnic on a topic dear to his heart, viz., alchemy; had also delivered lectures on the symbolism of the Mass and after retiring from lecturing at the Polytechnic had accepted a chair in Medical Psychology at Basel University. 

The Inner World versus the Outer World: 

I have already referred to the fact that Jung had said that the 'internal struggle' within each of us is infinitely more important that any 'external struggle'.  Growing old he embraced with stoicism and with a certain conservation of energy: 'The secret of growing old properly, it seems to me, is to consume oneself prudently and avoid being consumed.'  The Second World War was making him ever more religious - religious in a Buddhist sense that denied the reality of the world - it is almost immaterial for him now.  Jung became ever more inclined to give the psyche priority over external events.  To Peter Baynes (Dr H.G. Peter Baynes, 1882-1943, one of the leading Jungian analysts in the United Kingdom) he said: 'Don't think please, that Iam callous in not mentioning the horrors of our time.  I am confirmed in my fundamental disbelief in this world.'  (Quoted, ibid., 371)

Jung disliked also with a growing antipathy the modern world and all it stood for.  He is what he was to say at 65 (that is, in 1940): 'It is difficult to be old in these days.  One is helpless.  On the one hand one feels estranged from this world.  I like nature but not the world of man or the world to be... I loathe the new style, the new Art, the new Music, Literature, Politics, and above all the new Man.'  (Quoted ibid., 370-371)

The Overarching Importance of Symbols:

For an ageing man besotted and obsessed  with the unseen world and the veritable unreality of this one, we can well extend our credulity to the fact that the world of the imagination, that world replete and redolent with symbols, would and should take on a reality all of its own.  As far back as 1937 Jung had often made the point that 'whereas the central Christian symbol is a Trinity, the formula presented by the unconscious is a quaternity.  In reality the orthodox Christian formula is not complete.' (quoted ibid., 368)  Indeed he went on to point out that the concept of doctrine or dogma, call it what you will, was unsatisfactory because it contained  no representation  of either the feminine or indeed of the reality of evil.  He kept re-iterating that there are 'always four elements, four prime qualities, four colours, four castes, four ways of spiritual development.' (ibid., 368)

Medieval Versus Modern Mind:

Jung is intriguing, I believe, on this contrast here with respect to the development of the Dogma of the Trinity.  The Medieval Mind had assumed that the human psyche had the same structure as The Trinity, but the Modern Mind for Jung reverses this procedure and derives the structure of the Trinity from the psyche.  This is very interesting.  I have come to believe, in the latter years of my life, that religion or more correctly any religious or spiritual beliefs are constructs of our psychology - humankind needs to invent and put these structures in place to support itself on its journey through life.  Carl Gustave Jung felt that if evil were excluded from the idea of God and from the Trinity that its essential reality was being denied.  Evil was and is more than a mere absence of the good - a mere shadow with relative rather than stark existence. Jung quoted the early Gnostic view that Christ was God's second son and that the first was Satanael - the name means Satan-God.  he went on to point out that the central Christian symbol of the Cross was unmistakably a quaternity.  Hence we have the interesting and provocative title of this present chapter.  There is much food for thought in Jung indeed.



Above I have placed an image of a traditional quaternity for illustrative purposes.

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