Showing posts with label Spirituality. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Spirituality. Show all posts

Thursday, March 04, 2021

Jung at heart— the psychiatrist’s memoir


Memories, Dreams, Reflections

C. G. Jung. Recorded and edited by Aniela Jaffe, Translated by Richard and Clara Winston
Non-fiction, 430 pages

Carl Gustav Jung wrote his fittingly titled, “Memories, Dreams, Reflections,” late in his life. As Jung recollects his childhood, youth and career, readers gain insight into his intellectual development and the origins of his theories. Even at an early age, Jung knew his understanding of God was different from that of his minister father. His understanding was intuitive, bordering on mystical. His father understood God in a more conventional and rational manner. Though Jung had a scientific mind, he also possessed a sense of wonder in the natural world, an understanding of myth and an acceptance of the paranormal. Though highly intelligent, his unconventional thinking earned him scorn and disrespect from teachers and peers. Even after Jung became well respected, many of his peers questioned his theories. Regardless, Jung was, and remains, a major influence in psychotherapeutic and personality theories.

Early in his psychiatric career, Jung was influenced by Sigmund Freud. Initially Freud considered Jung the likely heir to his theories. Jung, however, could not accept Freud’s emphasis on sexuality as a major force behind psychic activity. To Jung, man was far more than his sexuality.

To Jung, psychic phenomenon encompasses not only the unconscious and conscious, but also anything that can be conceived by the psyche, including the opposites of those conceptions: “The fact, therefore, that a polarity underlies the dynamics of the psyche means that the whole problem of opposites in its broadest sense, with all its concomitant religious and philosophical aspects, is drawn into the psychological discussion... Leaving aside their claim to be independent truths, the fact remains that regarded empirically—which is to say, scientifically—they are primarily psychic phenomena. This fact seems to me incontestable. That they claim a justification for themselves is in keeping with the psychological approach, which does not brand such a claim unjustified, but on the contrary treats it with special consideration.”

Freud used the myths of Oedipus and Electra to explain children’s sexual desires toward their parents and their developmental adaptations to those desires. Like Freud, Jung used myth to explain psychic phenomena, but Jung went further, developing the concept of archetypes, and mining myth for richer meaning. Speaking about the need for myth, Jung states, “Meaning makes a great many things endurable—perhaps everything. No science will ever replace myth, and a myth cannot be made out of any science… We cannot explain an inspiration. Our chief feeling about it is that it is not the result of our own ratiocinations, but that it came to us from elsewhere.”

Though no substitute for a basic primer on Jung’s theories, “Memories, Dreams, Reflections,” provides insight into the nature of the man himself. Jung was a complex personality, willing to be both rational and mystical at once, a man who embraced both scientific empiricism as well as philosophical speculation. Unlike many scientists of his time, Jung doesn’t dismiss subjective experience as unscientific. He embraces his intimations, dreams, visions and paranormal experiences and attempts to understand them.

Jung’s description of his near death experience is especially fascinating. Unlike other narratives of this type, Jung doesn’t encounter a spiritual being in heaven. Rather, he meets his attending physician. During his convalescence, Jung realizes that he encountered his physician because the doctor is, himself, close to death. When Jung later learns that his doctor has died, he concludes that his intuitions had been correct. Jung’s memoir contains several paranormal anecdotes, which Jung treats with both an open mind and a desire for explanations.

Jung’s memoir will interest historians of psychological thought, Jungian practitioners and interpreters of mythology. Others will appreciate Jung’s candor in revealing his personal life—especially his ability to reconcile belief in both the natural and the supernatural and his appreciation for both scientific and mystical knowledge.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Armageddon, anyone?

Good omens : the nice and accurate prophecies of Agnes Nutter, witch
Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
Fiction 384 pages
William Morrow, 1990, 2006

According to the bit in the back of the book, this novel has become a "cult classic" since its publication. The book's sales rank on Amazon supports this claim. I haven't read any of Pratchett's books, but I've read a few by Gaiman. I didn't like this one as well as those.

Gaiman has a talent for taking mythological themes and making them believable. But this book is more of a farce, and as such, it failed to suspend my disbelief. This story, like others by Gaiman, draws from mythology, but unlike American Gods, the mythology isn't Norse, African, or Hindu, but Christian, and that will offend some, or at least cause discomfort. Believers don't like to see their beliefs treated like myths.

 Good Omens is about a friendship between a demon and an angel. Neither sees any sense in a war between Heaven and Hell and prefer to thwart, rather than assist during Armageddon. Crowley, the demon, and Aziraphale, the angel, have lived amidst humanity for so long that they no longer see things in such black and white terms as pure good or evil. They no longer fit in with the bureaucrats of Heaven and Hell. Unfortunately their sophisticated viewpoint isn't universal; satirizing conventional behavior just doesn't work for me.

I find no humor in society's increasing polarization of beliefs and attitudes, in the absence of dialog between left and right, religious and secular, rich and poor. Envisioning Heaven and Hell populated by rigid thinking, bureaucratic zealots simply doesn't amuse me. The world is full of such people already and their numbers are steadily increasing. Maybe Armageddon is coming after all, and that's just not funny.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Instant Karma


The Tea Goddess
Dekker Dreyer
Fiction 156 pages
Fringe Majority LLC. 2010

Kai and Ceire died before revealing their secret. A generation later, the Tea Goddess sends Remy a book—a book that profoundly affects his future. Soon he’s running for his life without knowing why.

Soon he’ll learn about his karmic debt and will need to repay it. But in order to do that, he’ll need to survive.

In this brief novel, few words are wasted. It takes off like a shot and races to its conclusion with just enough character development and world creation to make it believable. Personal dilemmas and violent action keep the tension high until the end. That end brings peace to several of the characters, but torment to another.

The book length of 156 pages is somewhat misleading since there’s a lot of white space throughout (I read the Kindle edition). Although not necessary, readers will take a bit more from this book if they have some familiarity with Chinese Buddhism.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Rise of Magic. Death of Science.

Fast Company devotes two pages of its February issue to Charles Darwin, who will turn 200 on the twelfth of that month. Francis Collins, whose comment is one of nine, remarks that when Darwin published, On the Origen of Species, 150 years ago, many accepted his theory as an explanation for how God carried out creation.

Today many people accept evolution, or at least aspects of it, as compatible with their religious beliefs. But some do not. Evolution requires a much longer time frame than the Bible’s mere seven days of creation. Some religious people argue that we can’t know the length of God’s day. It might span the eons needed to make evolution work. These are people who view Biblical truth as figurative, rather than as literal truth.

There are others who believe that the Bible means exactly what it says. There’s no wiggle room for scenarios spanning millions and billions of years. Everything came into being during the last ten thousand years or less. If the time since creation is so short, evolution is false and so are geology and physics.

My watch synchronizes its time with the atomic clock in Boulder, Colorado. The atomic clock is based on the dependability of radioactive decay. But the whole idea of radioactive decay is based on a timeline that far exceeds the time accounted for by a literal interpretation of Biblical creation. Those who accept this timeline must necessarily reject much of modern physics.

I believe that religious truth is compatible on some level with scientific knowledge. This belief is based on faith. Far more scientific knowledge exists than I can comprehend in depth; therefore, my belief in science must be faith based. Though most of us are taught science in school, few of us are taught the history of detailed reasoning and observation that led to establishing what is now considered scientific fact.

Those who interpret the Bible literally, must reject as false, much of what science teaches, if they are to be consistent in their beliefs. Few realize the implications of their rejection of science. They are protected from having to face the contradictions they create by rejecting science by their superficial understanding of science. Arthur C. Clark postulates that if technology is sufficiently advanced, than it can’t be distinguished from magic. I think we’ve achieved that level of technological advancement.

Science was far more comprehensible in Darwin’s day than it is today. Some churchmen readily incorporated evolution into their religious thinking during Darwin’s time, just as some do today. However, if Clark is correct, advancing technology must be accompanied by a decreasing comprehension of how things work. When everything exists as magic, than dependence on reason and observation must decline. The tools of reason and observation have well served mankind. Once they are lost, only magic will remain.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Spiritual Benefits of Recession.


Are there spiritual lessons to be gleaned from the economy’s rapid ride into Hell? I believe there are.

The first lesson is moderation. Lenders and borrowers both took excessive risks. When something looks too good to be true, it probably is. But avarice makes us want to believe when we should doubt. That’s why con artists are able to cheat us. Isn’t avarice one of the seven deadly sins?

Another lesson is that we are all interconnected. Even though you paid your mortgage and kept your house, you’ll have to suffer along with those who defaulted on their mortgages. When cash is tight and the economy slows, the effect is felt everywhere. Someone sneezes on Wall Street and someone else in India loses his job. There’s no escaping the fact — we are one.