Tag Archives: C G Jung 1875-1961

The Sacred Prostitute

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Sacred Prostitute: Eternal Aspect of the Feminine [Amazon, Abebooks, Publisher, Local Library] by Nancy Qualls-Corbett, foreword by Marion Woodman, part of the Studies in Jungian Psychology by Jungian Analysts series.

Qualls-Corbett Woodman the Sacred Prostitute

This entry in the Studies in Jungian Psychology by Jungian Analysts series of monographs is a quick read with some useful information. Its allegedly “historical” picture is, however, deeply flawed. While I wouldn’t necessarily expect the level of skepticism occasioned by more recent work like Budin’s Myth of Sacred Prostitution in Antiquity, even in the 1980s there were more reliable materials than the ones Qualls-Corbett chose as her sources of “fact.” Her first chapter, which concerns itself with this “historical background” is frankly embarrassing — and unnecessarily so, since the data of myth and legend are even more apposite to the psychological concerns of the book than any putative historical origins.

Another problem is the patently theological sensibility exhibited by the author when she treats “the goddess” as an entity of objective consensus in antiquity and universal relevance in modernity. The vague sort of positive associations with “life” and “love” and “the body” advanced in such passages serve only to solicit the reader’s enthusiasm for this theological project, without really giving it much coherence or specificity. In the course of the book, the “sacred prostitute” is reduced to the “priestess of the goddess,” and the term is applied quite freely to any female figure who is sanctified and/or sexual, so that the book seems rarely to realize its title by getting to the whore at the core.

The third and fourth chapters treat the sacred prostitute as an image of the Jungian anima archetype, with exploration of anima development in men and women respectively. These sections are leavened with a great deal of case-study material, most of which consists of the dreams of analysands, along with Qualls-Corbett’s interpretations. Mixed in with these, and offered as data of the same level of salience, are several literary excerpts, including two passages from D.H. Lawrence. 

In the second and fifth chapters the emphasis is on comparative mythology and religion, and these contain some interesting reflections, although they also exhibit some notable blind spots. (The author seems unaware that Beauty and the Beast is a conscious reworking of the fable of Cupid and Psyche, for example.) There is a helpful high-level gloss of Wagner’s Parsifal, some reasonable hypotheses about pagan survival in European Mariolatry, and other intriguing details. 

A short book, The Sacred Prostitute can certainly repay the slight bother of reading it for an informed, critical reader. But I don’t know that I’d recommend it to the more general inquirer to whom Qualls-Corbett seems to be addressing her writing here.

The Unholy Bible

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Unholy Bible: Blake, Jung, and the Collective Unconscious [Amazon, Abebooks, Local Library] by June Singer, introduction by M Esther Harding; re-issued as Blake, Jung, and the Collective Unconscious: The Conflict Between Reason and Imagination [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library], part of the Jung on the Hudson Books series. (Amusingly, I have both versions at the Reading Room, each purchased separately, at different times, thinking they were different books. Obviously, the topic sustains its appeal to me!)

June Singer M Esther Harding The Unholy Bible from Sigo Press

June Singer M Esther Harding Blake, Jung and the Collective Unconscious from Nicolas-Hays

Singer’s “Psychological Interpretation of William Blake” is for the most part a Jungian sermon that takes Blake’s prophetic works as its scripture. Sometimes she just rambles off into outright theologizing in that distinctive Jungian fashion. Nor does she avoid the scientism and occasional outright materialistic philosophy to which the Jungian discourse is prone. At times, Singer’s chief concern seems to be whether or not Blake was a good Jungian. But even so, The Unholy Bible is a fairly diligent and perceptive study of Blake’s mature work.

Following a quick but useful biographical preliminary, the largest section of the book is Singer’s analysis of The Marriage of Heaven & Hell, which is quite thorough. Her attention to the symbolic value of the pictorial elements of the plates is especially welcome. She traces some principal themes in the Proverbs of Hell, and offers careful consideration of the Memorable Fancies. 

The book could have used more proofreading. The erroneous transcriptions from Blake’s plates are particularly galling. (See 137, 142, e.g.) And here’s an author’s blunder: She reverses the symbolic attribution of the sheep and the goats relative to Blake’s context! (141)

The later sections of the book treat Blake’s prophecies which are the “unholy Bible.” These are viewed from a wider angle than The Marriage, and with some success. 

The final two chapters seemed relatively disposable to me. “Sources of Creative Activity” hagiographizes Jung and defends Blake against charges of insanity and mysticism — the latter subject to an evidently narrow, yet largely implicit definition. The two pages of “The Symbol” extol “the slender filament which reaches from our world to the Infinite” (247), if you care for that sort of thing. 

For diehard Jungians, there’s probably no better book on Blake. For general readers unfamiliar with Blake’s work, this might not be an optimal introduction, because of its tendency to confuse interpretations of Blake’s writing with assertions of Jungian doctrine. But I did enjoy reading it, and I learned some things along the way.