Carl jungs wotan essay

Psychology’s Magician

I think I have objective reasons for my views. Under the circumstances, personal insult was never far below the surface of substantive disagreement: what could be more insulting for a psychiatrist proud of his virtuosity than to have his most cherished theorizing pilloried by his most esteemed colleague on the grounds of his psychic turbulence?

Both Freud and Jung believed they saw deeper into human nature than any previous man of genius: Freud famously psychoanalyzed Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Dostoevsky, while Jung thought he got the better of Goethe, Schiller, and Nietzsche. The mess between them worsened, slights wrapped up in fundamental disagreements undergirded by whatever lurked in the unconscious regarding their feelings for each other.

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Jung was wounded to an astonishing degree to learn that Freud had visited the nearby town of Kreuzlingen without stopping in to see him. Occasional comparison to the traitorous Adler stung personally and professionally. It all came to a head at the end of , when Jung composed his last letter to Freud that was not strictly a matter of business, and was a deliberately unforgivable stomp on the face of their friendship:. Your technique of treating your pupils like patients is a blunder.

In that way you produce either slavish sons or impudent puppies Adler-Stekel and the whole insolent gang now throwing their weight about in Vienna. I am objective enough to see through your little trick. You go around sniffing out all the symptomatic actions in your vicinity, thus reducing everyone to the level of sons and daughters who blushingly admit the existence of their faults. Meanwhile you remain on top as the father, sitting pretty. For sheer obsequiousness nobody dares to pluck the prophet by the beard and inquire for once what you would say to a patient with a tendency to analyze the analyst instead of himself.

I am not in the least neurotic — touch wood! I have submitted lege artis et tout humblement [genuinely and with all humility] to analysis and am much the better for it.

You know, of course, how far a patient gets with self-analysis: not out of his neurosis — just like you. Accordingly, I propose that we abandon our personal relations entirely. There can be no doubt that this distress proved immensely fruitful for his subsequent theorizing. Madness had the better of him for a time. Visions and dreams of ghastly frightfulness bedeviled his days and nights. During a train journey in late , Jung fell into a two-hour trance, and he beheld a flood that inundated Europe from the North Sea to the Alps , the turbid water turning into blood, drowning multitudes.

The seas of blood would surge through his mind again and again in weeks to come; he was powerless to stop the visions once they seized him. Dreams recurred of arctic cold descending from space and locking the summer world in ice and snow. The third such dream, however, had a heartening end: the cold had turned the leaves of a fruitless tree into sweet ripe grapes, and Jung picked some and distributed them to a gathered throng.

Dionysus was come again, and Jung had the god in himself. The unconscious would offer rich bounty, this dream appeared to instruct, provided one could withstand the terror. That Jung proved willing to take direction from the unconscious would be his salvation: it would not only spare him from the worst of schizophrenia, but would also be the making of his career as theoretical innovator and clinical virtuoso of resounding fame.

F rom to Jung recorded his wanderings in the spectral world of his psyche, his raptures and desolations, in six notebooks called the Black Books ; these writings he would transcribe in elegant calligraphy and illuminate with his own paintings, working on the book for sixteen years and producing the Liber Novus , known in English as The Red Book , a volume of pharaonic ambition and splendor, six hundred folio manuscript pages bound in red leather.

The heart of Jung is in this book. Whether he yearns more intensely for God or for the fulfillment of his own nature is never quite clear; the two needs appear to be enmeshed. I had achieved honor, power, wealth, knowledge, and every human happiness. So you do not live your life but an alien one.

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But who should live your life if you do not live it? It is not only stupid to exchange your life for an alien one, but also a hypocritical game, because you can never really live the life of others, you can only pretend to do it, deceiving the other and yourself, since you can only live your own life. Knowledge is personal, and one must insist on his own singularity or renounce his birthright. But it is not enough for Jung to understand Christ; Salome tells him that he is Christ, and he sees no reason why not. The serpent squeezes my body in its terrible coils and the blood streams from my body, spilling down the mountainside.

Salome bends down to my feet and wraps her black hair around them. She lies thus for a long time. The serpent falls from my body and lies languidly on the ground. I stride over it and kneel at the feet of the prophet, whose form shines like a flame. Like Jung, the masses of men who are engaged in the Great War will learn to appreciate the ecstasies of self-sacrifice; to see millions perish in the hecatombs brings the wild joy of enlightenment.

Guilt is beside the point. The truth lies beyond such mortal considerations. To bear such awful truth takes some getting used to; Jung resists the knowledge that comes to him against his will. The old self wants a life that the new knowledge has made impossible. But God will not let Jung go, however he might kick and fret and wriggle:. There is no escape. So it is that you come to know what a real God is. The fire burns right through you. That which guides forces you onto the way.


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But the way is my own self, my own life founded upon myself. The God wants my life. He wants to go with me, sit at the table with me, work with me. Above all he wants to be ever-present. The divine appears to me as irrational craziness. I hate it as an absurd disturbance of my meaningful human activity.

It seems an unbecoming sickness which has stolen into the regular course of my life.


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Yes, I even find the divine superfluous. The once and future man of science may revere reason but in the end he must acknowledge that reason falls far short of comprehending reality. One can only understand what accords with reason. Magic accords with unreason, which one cannot understand. The world accords not only with reason but also with unreason. Useful to get that sorted out. It would also have developed into one, had I not been able to absorb the overpowering force of the original experiences.

He sounds perfectly reasonable about the role unreason played in making him a whole man — an individuated one, as he would put it — in whom the conscious mind and the unconscious were integrated. Such integration is the sine qua non of mental soundness, for one can know the unconscious only when it is brought to consciousness, and if it does not become conscious the unconscious can be the most destructive of hazards.

The experiences Jung records in The Red Book made Jung who he was, yet for most of his life he feared its publication would taint his intellectual work, so unorthodox in the first place, with the imputation of lunacy.

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And what the book indeed shows is that Jung was at the very least an incipient schizophrenic, as he had earlier diagnosed Frank Miller, the pseudonym of the woman whose case he detailed in Symbols of Transformation. With a nearly miraculous maneuver, however, while Jung was already falling into the pit, he found a way to pull himself out by the scruff of his neck. He believed it was reason that saved him — the scientific truth making itself apparent.

But it may have been a not entirely reasonable confidence that he had discovered the truth, indeed the psychological truth of truths. In either case, he had lighted upon what Machiavelli, with something quite different in mind, called the effectual truth: the truth that works. W hat saved Jung from hopeless psychosis, he believed, was the outbreak of the Great War on August 1, Until then, he thought the dreadful visitations issued from his personal hell; now he knew his terrors were premonitory and transcendent, referring not to him alone but to the fate of Europe.

The general conflagration was personally reassuring.


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One might suppose that it would be disturbing past all measure to foresee such cataclysm.