Crowley gets a mention in this fascinating book review from today’s UK Daily Telegraph (a serious broadsheet newspaper): Aleister Crowley was probably right to say that in Jung’s work “we see Science gracefully bowing her maiden brows before her old father, Magic”.
What is especially interesting is that a serious newspaper firstly doesn’t feel that Crowley needs to be introduced to the reader, and secondly feels it is of any importance at all to mention what Crowley felt about anything! All further evidence of the changing tide…
He believed in ghosts and aliens
Andy Martin reviews Jung by Deirdre Bair
He was Jung’s trickiest patient, the toughest nut the great analyst had ever tried to crack. Known by the code name, “CG”, he had already suffered a complete mental breakdown and occasional bouts of delirium. He had a weakness for séances and alchemy. He was incapable of showing affection towards his children or his wife. He saw ghosts and UFOs. He believed his dreams were prophecies. He was none other than Carl Gustav Jung. As his English translator RFC赬l observed, “Jung was a walking asylum himself, as well as its head physician.”
We should all be grateful to Jung. In the first half of the 20th century he was the only important psychologist to stand up to Freud, something the tyrant of Vienna never forgave him for. Freud was the Henry Ford of psychoanalysis: he sold a sex machine to the masses, a high-powered engine with a masterful jockey in the driving-seat capable of slamming on the brakes. Jung became his disciple and crown prince but rejected Freud’s fixation on sexuality as a form of mysticism. The paranoid Freud denounced Jung for his Oedipal desire to overthrow and kill the Father (ie Freud himself).
Ever the Swiss pastor’s son, Jung refused to see the psyche as a dark well of turbulent desire that needed the lid kept firmly on. The Jungian unconscious was not located in the libido or even in the individual: it was always the collective unconscious, a privileged pipeline into other psyches, a para-psychological receiver picking up signals from across time. Instead of being the devil in disguise, the unconscious tended towards God. So for Jung mythology wasn’t just a cover-story for sex, another “displacement activity”. Religion, alchemy, astrology, all had to be examined respectfully on their own terms. Aleister Crowley was probably right to say that in Jung’s work “we see Science gracefully bowing her maiden brows before her old father, Magic”. All of Jung is a massive critique of Enlightenment rationality.
Deirdre Bair’s monumental biography of Jung is about as fair, judicious, well-informed and amply footnoted as it is possible to be. My only qualm is that it is almost too sublimely detached, too superhumanly well-balanced. For example: taking over as president of the German International Society in 1933, Jung made numerous statements sympathetic to Nazism and proclaimed Hitler a shaman. Was Jung therefore a Nazi collaborator or not? Bair’s answer seems to be: Yes and No. Her view that “the only true last judgment… is that words can be interpreted to mean just about anything” wraps the mystery in an enigma. Her revelation that Jung was also an American spy during the Second World War, “Agent No. 488”, is a new twist in the tale. But Jeffrey Masson’s argument in Against Therapy: Emotional Tyranny and the Myth of Psychological Healing (1988) that Jung turned a blind eye to real manifestations of political and sexual violence still stands.
Bair is fascinating on the details of Jung’s triangular relationship with Emma, his rich, loyal, would-be intellectual and tremendously put-upon wife, and the thin, asexual Toni Wolff, who became his collaborator and lover. But if Jung means anything now, it is surely as a hugely encyclopedic historian of irrationality. As a therapist, he admits that he has little or nothing to offer, no pocket-size philosophy à la Freud to take away. Jung’s practical interventions tended to go wrong anyway. He advised one man, worried about his wife’s precarious state of mind, to stop worrying and be tough. She promptly threw herself off a high building to her death. Whereas his interpretation of the “Solar Phallus Man”, who appeared to believe that the sun had sticking out of its side a phallus that controlled the wind, takes us on a glorious tour of the wild side of the Western mind. And his reading of Eastern religions inspired Herman Hesse, the 1960s, and a lot of New Age thinking.
Credo quia absurdum est: I believe because it is absurd. That was Jung. He remains a sympathetic figure because for him nothing was too crackpot (and that would include Nazism) to be taken seriously. Jung’s late essay on flying saucers brilliantly ties them in to God, the universe, and everything (including cigars). But Bair shows that he was also a believer. When Charles Lindbergh tells him he’s been up there and neither he nor his friend General Spaatz has seen any aliens, Jung replies: “There are a great many things going on around this earth that you and General Spaatz don’t know about.”