on 9 September 2012
This book has become a classic but before considering the most important theoretical and practical elements in the book, I would like to make three remarks, to get them out of the way.
The first one is the few mentions of Hitler and Nazism, often direct but unnamed and in an off-handed way that makes these remarks disagreeable because they seem to explain and excuse Hitler and the Nazi party because of the impossibility to contain the masses when the hero archetype hits them. There is a lot to say about mass fascination and mass psychology but it cannot be used to excuse the crimes committed by some in a way or another.
The second remark is about his reference to Lévy Bruhl and his concept of "primitive manr and also to Paul Radin and the same concept. It is true he uses a couple of times the word "primeval" which is a lot better but he overuses "primitive" applied to man, society, or whatever human aspect and the reference is strong following Radin to apply that qualification to Native Americans. They only look primitive to the fundamentalist Protestants in particular and Christians in general who conquered them, exterminated them and forced them into reservations. Once again this is an easy way to excuse the crimes of history, the crimes western men have committed. And the book having been partly revised in the 1950s, the author should have known better.
The last thing here which is highly unacceptable because it is a stereotypical absurdity is the clear-cut and absolutely not fuzzy at all connection of homosexuality with the mother complex. What he calls the mother complex should be called the mother attachment, maybe excessive attachment. That may produce some cases of homosexuality but it produces quite a few other derangements among heterosexual and clearly straight people, particularly extreme anti-gay attitudes in the name of purity and procreation. Look at Ron Hubbard for one example and his clear rejection of homosexuality and at the same time his excessive attachment to the definition of women as mothers and the reduction of sex to procreative objectives. Ron Hubbard speaks exactly like the proponents of Proposition 8 in California, even if forty years before: the only objective of human sexuality is procreation, hence the only dimension a woman has to have is to be a mother. If that is not over-attachment to the "concept" of the mother, then what is?
By the way, there are many other ways and paths leading to the gay choice or life style and among others love, and don't tell me love is a motherly dimension. Love is a vast universe connected to the mirror neurons and the feeling of empathy which are in all human beings (even in some apes) and can be perverted in a way or another to reject some behaviors in others and to refuse empathy for some categories of people and replace this human empathy with hatred and the desire to exterminate. What was I saying about Indians, Native Americans? They are primitive and We are then justified in feeling no empathy for them and getting them our of the way of civilization, in the singular of course since civilization is OUR WESTERN civilization, racist wrapping and all.
Of course Jung wrote before and just after 1950, but how could he ignore that much, in the later part of his life, the Holocaust, the Shoah, the industrial extermination of tens of millions of people, and the gulag was to follow later on (1956 with Khrushchev), not to speak of Jacques Lacan and Levy Strauss.
This being said, I can now turn to the more important questions, some of them of course, not all of them.
The general idea is that each one of us carries in our psyche a collective unconscious made of archetypes and that this is inborn. This idea is old fashioned and completely off the track even in Jung's time. He does not take into account any psychogenetic elements and how children, before birth and after birth, are confronted to a general situation that is practically the same for all human newborns and has been the same since mutations made Homo Sapiens so premature and dependent at birth. The trauma of birth and hunger is not taken into account. Language is not taken into account before birth. True enough the first recordings of what a baby could hear inside his mother's womb were only made in the 1980s, but since we knew a long time before that the child could hear around the 20th or 24th week of his/her mother's pregnancy, Jung could have had the inkling of thinking that the child might have heard things before birth. But there is no excuse for the total negligence of language in the way the new-born is going to start having and building relations with his/her environment. At the time the mother was more or less dominant, but after 1945 the evolution went fast about the education and professional life of women. He could then have brought the father back into the picture.
True enough he only considers the mother archetype. True enough he does not consider the father archetype, except casually, on the side and offhandedly. He does consider the feminine side of each man, what he calls the anima, and he quotes the masculine side of each woman, the animus, but he only studies the anima of the male characters of his fairy tales, which makes the male characters definitely dominant, heroes, with a dark shadow that retains the man down trapped into overused and repetitive ruts, and with a feminine anima that may lead him to all kinds of horrible things, actions, reactions. But the best part seems to be the statement that the mother archetype is part of the collective unconscious that is inborn in a child along with the non-study of the real psychogenesis of the relation with the mother and the psychogenetic effects of that relation on the child, not to speak of course of the same two dimensions of the relation with the father during the pregnancy and after birth. In other words this approach is disembodied, dematerialized and it naturally leads to considering these vast archetypes are the fruits of some natural process that makes them inborn in the child, as if the relation with the mother that is mostly exclusive for nine months was not an acquired environmental unavoidable construction.
But in that line when he studies what he says is a German version of a fairy tale collected by the Grimm brothers, "The Princess in the Tree," a title that does not exist in the collections of the Brothers Grimm's tales, he is mostly superimposing his own vision onto the tale without really studying in detail some patterns that are not and cannot be accidental. His approach of threeness for example is ambiguous and difficult to follow because it does not take all the elements, and each one of them within its semiotic cluster of elements, into account and what's more his assertion that three is a feminine number and four a masculine number is at least questionable, greatly questionable including in the tale he considers. (We will see he states the reverse in another context.) The fact that the three-legged horse is a mare is counterbalanced by the fact it is the property of a witch at first then the stolen property of a hunter, he claims is a representation of the "pagan" god Wotan (what does pagan has to do in this context, I don't know: Wotan is a Nordic and hence partly Germanic god vastly Christianized by other fairy and folk tales like Sigmund and Siegfried), and he forgets to really exploit the fact that this three-legged horse was a four-legged horse at first when the property of the witch, and it lost a leg because that leg was maimed by twelve wolves to whom the hunter had not brought an offering to cross their forest. And he does not exploit the number 12 which is magic and deeply Christian, though not only, and is the multiplication of three by four, or the reverse. That should have made him think of castration indeed.
At this moment, and all along in the book, the reference to alchemy is naïve because alchemy is the result of millennia of human culture, accumulation and cogitation, and not something existing magically in the middle of the Middle Ages. His reference to Alchemy is very defective because it does not take into account older representations from which it borrowed or inherited a lot of symbolical representations.
One example is quite obvious when he studies the double triad. He says that the two "opposed" triangles are the result of the cutting up of a square along one of its diagonals. True enough but he misses, neglects, does not even allude to the quite famous, and infamous under Nazism, star of David composed of two opposed triangles representing two cups, the cup of god pouring divine truth into the cup of man receiving that divine truth. This negligence, ignorance or rejection is in many ways absurd because it is a fundamental human symbolism that comes from even farther back and is in many ways universal, and it is one starting point for the freemason tradition that is also connected to alchemy later on.
In the same way when he speaks of the Dioscuri, the famous couples of male characters, Castor and Pollux for one, and many others, including one he lengthily studies in the Quran, Moses and Khidr in Sura 18, the Cave, he does not mention the famous couple Jachin and Boaz in David and Solomon's temple. He does speak of the old grey man as opposed to the young man or boy in many fairy tales, but he does not speak of this Jewish couple that is mythical and that is the very basis of the alchemical couple of the master and the apprentice and that we find in many Romanesque churches, including on the outside porch of some (Beurrières in Puy de Dôme, France, for one), in inverted order since Jachin is the south pillar, on the right when going out of Solomon's temple, on the left when going in, and Boaz is the north pillar on the left when going out of Solomon's temple and on the right when going in. Hebrew is a Semitic language read from right to left and Jachin and Boaz is right when going out of the temple, but it is Boaz and Jachin when going in. In Beurrières it is Jachin and Boaz from left to right when going into the church (hence the reverse order from the Hebraic order.) I cannot understand why he missed that fundamental couple, fundamental in our culture, but with roots so deep in the Middle East, the Levant, Asia Minor and of course in many other human civilizations (even if according to the French Left we are not supposed to use this word "civilization" in the plural) that all have gone through this vast region stretching from the Mediterranean Sea to what is today Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia, where all Homo Sapiens coming out of Africa met with the two Neanderthals branches, those who populated Europe and those who went up and whose DNA has just been identified in Central Asia and Siberia. All Homo Sapiens went there since all Homo Sapiens have a genetic heritage from one or the other Neanderthals branches. All of them, except those Homo Sapiens who did not migrate out of Africa.
I have mentioned two essential cultural Jewish heritages neglected, ignored or rejected (who will ever know?) by Jung. He had a difficult relation with Sigmund Freud early in his life but that cecity cannot be explained by that relationship and anyway it is scientifically wrong and unacceptable. So was Jung an anti-Semite? The way he tries to cover up and excuse Hitler and German Nazism may lead me to think he was at least voluntarily ignorant of Jewish culture and heritage, along with its old and deep roots, in human culture. When dealing with archetypes it is difficult to "ignore" that heritage.
But I would like to insist on one other archetype. That of the mother.
He tries by all means to reduce the mother to a triple, threefold or triadic form. The three gunas in the parkrti (Hinduism and Vedic tradition) is false because the three basic gods of Hinduism in this culture and religion are both male and female, Brahma is the less bisexual, but Shiva and Vishnu are well-known for their hermaphrodite bisexuality. He should have then studied the male fatherly creator and the female creator, life-enhancer and destroyer. He would have then been able to understand Buddhism that is notably absent from his approach, including when he speaks of the rebirth archetype, though the dukkha cycle of birth-(waxing-and-waning-life)-death-rebirth and the possible escape from it via meditation and positive kamma (which he calls "karma", a Sanskrit word, though Sanskrit was never used by the Buddhists in those distant centuries: they even invented the language Pali to transcribe Buddha's canonical preaching. And of course he misses the concept of nibbana (nirvana in Sanskrit) when the mind gets totally free from all material attachments and can merge into cosmic universal energy. This absence, once again, is a serious shortcoming.
He often approaches the triple nature of the goddess but never speaks of the triple goddess, though he does mention Hecate, Demeter and a few other names she may have in Greek. The triple goddess is a lot vaster and deeper, and older than that. The goddess of life, the goddess of love and growth, the goddess of death. Diana, who some associate with Athena, is the goddess of birth, life, growth, young animals and humans, pregnant women and childbirth. Selene is the moon goddess and represents natural darkness, love and all these private acts you may associate with the night. Hecate is the goddess of the underworld, of the dead and death. He quotes Demeter several times, her daughter Persiphone, the goddess of the underworld like Hecate, and the Eleusinian Mysteries. Demeter is in one name that triple goddess. He alludes with these Eleusinian Mysteries to Semele and her son Dionysus, also known as Bacchus or Iacchus. But once again he mostly neglects and does not consider the father. In Semele's case, the father is Zeus and he will finish carrying the foetus in his own thigh when Heras his wife kills Demeter out of jealousy, hence Dionysus is the twice-born son of Zeus, carried both by his mother Semele and his father Zeus. He will later go down into Hades to bring his mother back and bring her to Mount Olympus for her to be made divine. Even that triple goddess is not cut off from the male, the father, the masculine god. The absence of this Triple Goddess and the ternarity of the oldest deepest human concept of the divinity is frustrating. In the same way he speaks of Isis and Horus, but Osiris, the father is pushed aside into the margin, and the procreation of Horus is not specified, and the dismembering of Osiris is not explained and explored, neither his reconstruction and rebirth. That would explain then the Christian Trinity which is found in two forms: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit on one hand, and the Father, the Son and the Mother of God on the other hand.
His assertion that three is feminine is at least disquieting and questionable. In the same way his assertion that four is masculine remains to be proved or at least demonstrated (not to mention the contradiction we can find on that element in this book: three being also asserted as being masculine and four as being feminine, though three is an incomplete number and four the sign of wholeness.) In our tradition four is the crucifixion but traditionally, and that seems to be corroborated by historians, with only three nails, at least three nails in the Christian tradition (there are very few Romanesque or Gothic Christs crucified with four nails. I can think of one but there might be some more.) But he misses another essential point. Old "pagan" traditions state the divinity as being triple. The Old Testament states the divinity as being twofold; God and his spirit in the first chapter and second verse of Genesis, and God creates everything two by two. Then the Christians, in fact under whose influence, James the elder brother of Jesus and first bishop of Jerusalem, or Paul, ex-Saul, the self appointed apostle of the Gentiles, made the divinity triple again, whereas in the Dead Sea Scrolls tradition, Islam is going to develop an absolutely unified and unitary divinity. If there is something triple in the Dead Sea Scrolls, considered by some as representing James' point of view, it is the networks of evil: fornication, riches (greed) and desecrating the temple.
Once again his feminine threeness is questionable. But what about his masculine fourness? The pyramids are built on a square pattern. Crucifixion was only for men. Only men could get into the inner sanctum of Solomon's Temple, the Holy of Holies, which was square. If we speak of archetypes we can see the masculinity of this fourness. But that does not make threeness feminine. He alludes to Goethe and his Faust, and he ignores the end of the second Faust. The last scene starts with three father figures: Pater Ecstaticus, Pater Profundus and Pater Seraphicus (note the triple goddess behind them: the first one is life, pleasure, etc, the second the deep underworld, the third the sky and heaven, Diana, Hecate and Selene.) But they are masculine and what's more fatherly. Then the mother comes in, Mater Gloriosa, and three sinners are going to plead Faust's cause, three women, two directly from the New testament, one from the Acts of the Saints, Magna Peccatrix from Luke 7:36, Mulier Samaritana from John 4, and Maria Aegyptica from Acta Sanctorum. And these three who both speak separately and together are joined by the fourth sinner, Una Poenitentum, formerly known as Gretchen. And a certain Doctor Marianus comes to conclude the second Faust the way the manager of the theatre had opened the first Faust. Jung says this Doctor Marianus is the re-embodiment of Faust himself. I won't commit myself on that interpretation. This Doctor Marianus is said by some to be an allusion to Anselm of Canterbury (circa 1033-1109), Benedictine monk, theologian, philosopher, Archbishop of Canterbury and Doctor of the Church, or to Duns Scotus (circa 1265-1308), Blessed, Franciscan friar, theologian and philosopher, nicknamed Doctor Subtilis. But this character will become famous by being used by various composers, particularly Gustav Mahler in his 8th symphony.
All that is ignored by Carl Jung and his allusion to Goethe' Faust II the Cabiri scene (Act II, Scene V and VI) is just that, an allusion. This Cabiri scene shows how Thales is taking the Homunculus to Nereus first and Proteus second to make him a full human. Thales is a savant, a scientist, a wise man leading an incomplete human to Nereus, the father of the Nereides in the ocean and then to Proteus, that divine person who can change forms and identities, a trickster in other words. Three older, wise men, two of them of divine nature, the three of them male, are leading the Homunculus to human existence. The master and the apprentice, the old grey wise man and the boy, etc, but three is male and divine. But we are surprised at this moment because Jung asserts three is masculine and four feminine, going against what he said in his commentary of "The Princess in the Tree" about the three-legged horse that was a mare ridden by Princess A, and the four-legged horse that was a stallion ridden by the swineherd, and even worse when he says "whereas fourness is a symbol of wholeness, threeness is not." This should lead him to the idea that three is castrated, hence a castrated four, and no female is a castrated male, except in a very sexist approach of sexes. Such contradictions go against reason.
Goethe had it a lot better than that in the final Chorus Mysticus of the Second Faust:
Ist nur ein Gleichnis;
Hier wird's Ereignis ;
Hier ist es getan;
Zieht uns hinan.
[All of the transient, Is parable, only: The insufficient, Here, grows to reality: The indescribable, Here, is done: Woman, eternal, Beckons us on.]
The translation of course does not reflect Goethe's irony which sets femininity and womanhood as the future of the world, and yet evokes it entirely in the neutral gender, that is to say neither masculine nor feminine, or this opposition neutralized, hence both at the same time as Goethe said so well in the same Faust Part II, Act II, Scene V:
Proteus: You are a true virgin's son,
Before you should be, you're already one!
Thales (Whispering.): From another point of view, it's critical:
I think it makes him hermaphroditical.
Proteus: All the easier to achieve success:
Whatever he gets will suit him best.
The virgin's son is a religious allusion of course, slightly mocked here, but it is also the fact that this son is the son of no real mother and he is because of that hermaphroditical and that is amplified by Proteus the trickster`s opportunistic remark that implies that sexual neutrality is quite an advantage in life, provided you only think of your satisfaction.
A lot more could be said and should be said about this book. Though it is necessary to read this classic. Yet it is very dangerous to follow what the author says, and it is necessary for you to be able to make out the various contradictions in his approach.
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU