Friday, November 28, 2008

Journeying with Jung 39

Chapter 33: What Happens After Death: 

This chapter covers the period 1944 till 1945.  During this time Jung had broken his leg - his fibula to be exact, the smaller of the two bones in the lower leg (also called the calf bone located on the lateral side of the tibia, with which it is connected above and below.)  Ten days later he suffered a heart attack.  On the 7th May 1945 Germany surrendered to the Allies.  Later that year he established a close relationship with the Dominican Priest,  Fr. Victor White.  On the 6th and 9th of August of the same year the two Atomic Bombs were dropped on Japan.  Some days later Jung gave the Eranos lecture on "The Psychology of the Spirit."

Illness as an Awakening:

It almost goes without saying that we especially appreciate life after we have had an illness - especially a serious one.  At 68 years of age Jung suffered a double blow in breaking his leg and in getting a severe heart attack.  Afterwards he would speak about this illness as being a veritable awakening for him.  I have met many others who have recounted similar experiences.  I can testify to like effects on me of an illness which struck me and necessitated some seven weeks in hospital.  It was as if I had begun to value life anew and experience it at a different level or depth.  With respect to Jung we read:

Retrospectively he would call the illness 'a most valuable experience.'  It had given him 'a glimpse behind the veil.  The only difficulty is to get rid of the body, to get quite naked and void of the world and the ego-will.  When you can give up the crazy will to live and when you seemingly fall into a bottomless mist, then the truly real life begins with everything which you were meant to be and never reached.'  (Quoted Hayman, 378)

Jung went on to say that 'Life and the whole world struck me as a prison.' (Ibid., 378)  During and after this significant illness he began to have very deep meaningful dreams.  He had for years been besotted and obsessed with the unity of opposites and he began now to declare that he would never have fully understood this paradox of the conjunction of opposites without having experienced the double blow of broken leg and heart attack.  He was brought psychically lower and deeper than he had ever been previously.  His dreams now gave him a new insight into this mystery of opposites with which he had been struggling for years and which had led him to study alchemy in depth.  Hayman continues:

Discharged from hospital in July, he was reluctant to part with his blissful dreams and visions, but felt that he knew more than he had before about the afterlife, and that consciousness survived.  'What happens after death,' he wrote in a letter, ' is so indescribably glorious that our imagination and our feelings are inadequate to form even an approximate notion of it... Sooner or later all the dead become what we also are... The dissolution of our time-bound form in eternity brings no loss of meaning.' (Ibid., 380)

Jung on the External World:

I have already alluded to the fact in my previous post that the external world counted for little or nothing with Jung.  What really mattered was the inner one which was becoming far more "real" for him as he aged.  Hence, the War, with all its destruction and death played itself out somewhere far beyond his important inner reality.  Let's take some examples:

(1) The Plot to Kill Hitler:

C.G. believed profoundly in his prophetic intimacy with the archetypal forces which he believed shaped the world.  In like manner these same archetypal forces governed the War.  His followers, in keeping with Jung's concerns, were very happy to see a synchronistic connection between his recovery and that of the increasing success of the Allies against Hitler.

Hence he was interested in the War insofar as he could see it as a playing out of these archetypal forces.  The plot to kill Hitler interested him for the same reasons.  This plot took place on 20 July 1944.  One of the conspirators was General Erwin Rommel, but the crucial role was played by a Colonel, Claus Count von Stauffenberg, Chief of Staff to the commander of the army reserve.   After the conspirators had been executed Jung showed absolutely no sympathy for them because in his opinion they also just wanted absolute power. I agree with Hayman that here Jung had got his facts wrong and both these men had quite strong, if subtle, ethical stances.  He saw the conspirators as mere channels for the playing out of the archetypal forces from the collective unconscious.  Once again Hayman's insights are interesting:

To be that archetypal forces determine events is to devalue both individual initiatives and historical developments.  In his 1936 essay on Wotan, Jung had maintained that the unfathomable depths of the God's character explained more about National Socialism than economic, political and psychological factors.  (Hayman, 381)

(2)  On Nazism as the War came to an end:

In an interview with a Swiss journalist as the Second World War ground to a halt, he stated that collective guilt was a fact that we could not deny.  Indeed, he stated further that the very task of therapy was to make the Germans as a people admit their collective guilt.  This was a strong statement from the old man. (I use the term 'old' purposely because that is the adjective he used to describe himself.)  The 'general psychic inferiority of the Germans' had produced a 'national inferiority complex [a term coined by his fellow psychiatrist and analyst Alfred Adler] which they try to compensate by megalomania.'  It was no accident, he said, that Goebbels had been 'branded with the ancient mark of the demonised man - a clubfoot.  Ten per cent of the German population today are hopeless psychopaths.'  (Ibid., 382-383)

(3)  The Failure of Civilisation:

Jung spread the blame not alone for the War but for every other malaise in society on the failure of civilisation, which failure could be seen in the bankruptcy of modernity itself.  Modern art showed nothing but the sheer desperation and alienation of humankind and he mentioned 'the blatantly pathological element in modern painting.'  Atonal music obviously captured this desperation, alienation and pathology in the jarring of sound.  And, then, in the book Ulysses by our own James Joyce he could see the very seeds of the Second World War: 'Here we have the germ of what became a political reality in Germany.'  (see ibid., 383)  Jung could not resist a reference to the more primitive (and purer in a way) world of his 'pueblo chieftain.'  The white man, unlike his primitive counterpart, was restless, nervous, pressured and unstable.  In this restlessness, nervousness and instability he had dragged down the gods and transformed them into demons through his so-called rational scientific enlightenment.  However, he had neither killed nor got rid of them because all of these old gods reappeared as psychic factors in the minds of the Nazi war criminals.  The German people and especially its Nazi leaders had become possessed by these evil spirits as it were, those old denied gods.

Our Spiritual Needs necessitate a Church:

As Jung looked out on the world from his Shangri-La existence in the snowy mountains of Switzerland which had been left almost completely untouched by the Second World War, he saw what he termed 'the diabolical drive towards destruction.'  He had seen this most obviously in the pathological megalomania of Wotan-Hitler which almost destroyed Europe and European civilisation and most essentially in the Atom Bombs dropped on Japan on the 6th and 9th days of August 1944.  In effect, after the Manhattan Project, nothing could ever be the same.  Unless a new ethics, a new religion and a new spirituality were pressed into action the world would hurtle to its own destruction.  Let's listen to Jung's own words here:

As I see it, only a worldwide religious movement could fend off the diabolical drive towards destruction.  That is why the question of the Church grips me so urgently, for the Church is the only worldly authority where spirit in the religious sense moves the brute masses.  The Church would have its raison d'etre if it could save humanity or at least civilisation.  ((Quoted ibid., 384)

C.J. had always seen himself as a guru and as a prophet, and, therefore, his only chance of fulfilling his mission was to form an alliance with the Church.  However, being ever the pioneer of his own ideas, this would have to be on his terms only.  There would be no compromise with anything like dogma as we have already seen in our last post where he suggested that the devil should make up a quaternity, that is the usual three persons plus this satanic fourth. No Christian Church could possibly swallow that.  Hayman points out in all this, that Jung, being a unique and very unorthodox Protestant Christian, saw himself implicitly as a latter-day Luther pointing out the corruption of the old Church and the way to a new inspired one.   This new inspired Church was the only hope to save all of civilisation.

He would need a collaborator inside the church, and if he prayed for one, it must have looked as though God was responding when, shortly after his 70th birthday, a package arrived from an English Dominican who had been put in touch by a Jungian analyst, Gerhard Adler.  This man was one Fr. Victor White, O.P. and it is to their relationship we will turn in our next post.

Above I have pasted a copy of the painting "The Destruction Sodom and Gomorrah" by John Martin. I think it symbolically captures the essence of this post, that is, the essence of Jung's deep feelings in the aftermath of World War II and the dropping of the two Atomic Bombs on Japan.

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