In the summer of 1914, a few weeks before the First World War breaks out, Swiss physician and psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung is hit by a violent mental crisis. He feared he was losing self-control, that a psychosis could be on his way. In a dream, he saw the lands of Europe flooded with yellow waves, floating debris, cultural works and thousands of dead. As the war begins 1. August he realizes that it is not him who is suffering from a mental illness, but that his dreams came from the subconscious of the collective unconscious. "Now my task was clear: I had to try to understand what was happening, and to what extent my own experiences were related to that of the human community." It is this connection between "this deep inner ... in the authorship and the external context of the current European history », which he constantly notes in his red diary called Liber Novus ("The Red Book").
Jung without Freud. Liber Novus, first published in 2009, is the basis for the Danish idea historian Axel Haaning's excellent book on Jung. With the release of these unknown writings, one is reconsidering the basic story of Jung and Freud, and it becomes necessary to see his writings in a new light. Instead of the erroneous basic narrative of Jung as an occult mystic, Jung appears here as a contemporary thinker and cultural critic. Psychology, philosophy and religious history are connected fields of knowledge. And it is more than clear in Haaning's formidable presentation that Jung is developing into a mentality historian and diagnostician, but not only, because Europe's mental crisis is also the individual's. Diagnosis and therapeutic healing work in parallel. Haaning highlights the crucial influence of American philosopher William James on Jung. In particular, the description of the psyche as a work in man and religious experiences as a concrete experience (experience). The active dynamic brings Jung on the path of a "general psychology". For Freud, the psyche has its center in the ego, for Jung, the psyche is a connecting function between consciousness and the unconscious. For him, "the region of the subconscious" is a living place with historical clues, images and culturally religious figures, referring to the general features that extend beyond the individual, and which connect with a movement dynamic that is active in consciousness, in the psyche. The unconscious is not simply the sum of displaced elements.
We now see that this has never been Jung's project. We get Jung without Freud. For Jung, the unconscious region was part of general psychology. The figures and myths of the past move and connect to «something outside the consciousness itself, a relation to history as something other than self-reflection». “For Jung, the story is alive, present – alive inside us. To be connected to history is to be connected to oneself, even the part of ourselves we do not know. " Jung's psychology connects cultural criticism with societal criticism of what it means to understand the time we are in the middle of.
We have stared blindly at the notion that God is dead, but underestimated it in our unconscious that creates notions of gods, who are light alive.
A voice from the depths. If you want to understand your contemporaries, you should not look for its light, but its darkness. While the voice of time nourishes itself by the light, the voice from the depths must nourish itself by the darkness. Every revolution of consciousness hurts. Nietzsche's Zarathustra has shown Jung something of the way: “Usually we associate waking up from a dream with waking up to reality, the world of day-clear consciousness; in the poem it is midnight! As if the night-awake sight becomes an eye-opener, a discovery of the opposite pole of the clear day, an infinite depth, where the real and the imaginary coincide, and reality is suddenly doubled. " This maturation of consciousness (individuation) does not regard the religious or spiritual experience as a substitute for unmet needs, but as something that emerges from the outside. Rather than limiting the expression of culture to the individual's personal experiences for therapeutic treatment, according to Jung, it is possible to look at the expressions and figures of literature, religion and culture as an objective historical material that also includes other eras and other cultures. Being in dialogue with the unconscious is not just about looking back and seeking answers in the first cause of childhood (Freud) but is an ongoing and natural process of life. The knowledge experience of the past (mythology, religion) paves the way for an expansion of meaning that makes the personal universal. Therapy as an exercise in approaching greater insight into one's own time. With increased understanding of one's own crisis, we see it reflected in the external living conditions and circumstances. What does it look like for people inside who live in a time when people like Trump come to power? Maybe there is nothing?
Haaning emphasizes with Jung how the loss of cultural authority has made religion a private matter and reduced psychology to personal complexes.
Crises and gods. "We must have a greater understanding of human nature, because the only real threat that exists is man himself. Man is the greatest danger, and we are pitifully ignorant of it, "Jung writes.
Goethe Faust and Nietzsche Zarathustra was, according to Jung, cultural-historical expression of «the profound changes in the European mentality». Jung's crisis awareness, according to Haaning, must be seen in the context of the religion's loss of authority today replaced by therapy. The result is a feeling of alienation from both nature, Western visual and cultural history and thus an alienation from ourselves. The connection between the culturally conditioned patterns of upbringing and the physical and mental basis of man requires precisely «a new orientering and a necessary self-knowledge ». We have long stared blindly at the modern notion that God is dead, that the figures of tradition are dead, while we underestimate the instance of the unconscious that creates notions of gods who are luminous. But the gods do not die, they change, change shape. In contrast to the symbols that religion elevates to dogmas within Christianity, the symbols are subconsciously subject to a continuous development in interaction with the cultural development within, among other things, Chinese and Hindu traditions. Therefore, it is the task of modern man to understand the structural changes and let the new symbols come into play so that it becomes able to consciously relate to them. In his writings, especially after the Second World War, Jung shows that this has actually taken place continuously and can be read in the texts of alchemy and the world of images throughout most of the history of Western culture. There is such Haaning as another Sherlock Holmes, chapter by chapter through the discovery of Jung's forgotten texts and overlooked collaborations brings the reader on the trail of these hidden but important connections. Along the way, I actually came to think of Deleuze and Guattaris A thousand plateaus which also sees connections between the transhuman cultural-historical sources and the reorganization of consciousness formation.
Courage to raise. When Jung via the medieval theologian Victor White gets on the trail of the wisdom of alchemy in the ancient scripture Aurora consurgens ("Rising Morning Red") he discovers a connection between his earlier preoccupation with Paracelsus' natural philosophy and Chinese Daoism: There are two light sources in man, the sun and the night. There is another light source in the dark. And with a different attitude and through repeated exercises, it is possible to pave the way for conscious transformation. This hidden connection between the pre-Christian (European) spirit and the Chinese sees susceptibility rather than mastery as a more true image of man. Wu wei (Chinese) highlights non-action and awaiting attention. In a powerful chapter, Haaning and Jung emphasize how the loss of cultural authority has made religion a private matter and reduced psychology to personal complexes. To re-establish contact with the life-creating sources of the crisis-stricken human being requires courage to educate. When the animal lives in us, when the anxiety does the same, there is a duty of self-upbringing.
A thought dawns. Alone during my lifetime, words like “soul” and “spirit” have gone horribly out of fashion. Haaning writes about both, but in his deep hermeneutic approach there is a tendency to essence the soul. Haaning treats Jung as a spiritual archaeologist who finds rare valuables that uncover hidden opinions. Yet the book contains a strong critique of the loss of spirituality of our time. Haaning, who has previously written books on Christian mysticism and esoteric writings, shows the special connection between language and spirit that the scientificization and instrumentalization of our language by the culture of communication draws air and spirit out of language. Only a spiritual language allows man to breathe – to "breathe" the candy the fish in the water does. Spirituality is for Haaning a resonance of connectedness with the living, as we sense when the words become transparent and we see the world through them. It is this revival of thought as a complex twilight that Jung can teach us, and that is the one we must learn to listen to – that within us and outside, that speaks to us, that makes this book a special achievement.