Tag Archives: C. G. Jung

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.

Flying Saucers

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Flying Saucers: A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Sky [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by C G Jung, trans. R F C Hull.

Jung Hull Flying Saucers

This fairly short book collects all of Jung’s writings relevant to ufology, principally the 1958 monograph “Flying Saucers,” which discusses UFOs in rumor, dreams, and modern art, along with the question of the premodern history of the phenomenon and its “non-psychological” (i.e. objective, material) aspect. An epilogue treats late-breaking ufological literature (in the 1950s): the evangelistic Secret of the Saucers by contactee Orfeo Angelucci, the sf novel The Black Cloud by astronomer Fred Hoyle, and John Wyndham’s sf novel The Midwich Cuckoos. Appended to the main text are three short pieces of correspondence “On Flying Saucers,” addressed to the periodical Weltwoche, the UPI news agency, and US military ufologist Major Donald Keyhoe. The last two letters are largely concerned to counter what Jung claimed were misrepresentations in the press regarding his credulity towards the empirical reality of flying saucers as material craft from beyond Earth.

Throughout the book, but especially in the section that analyzes seven dreams featuring flying saucers or something of the kind, Jung goes on at length about his own theories in more general terms that are not obviously germane to the topic at hand. In one admitted “digression,” he puzzled me by setting up an opposition between the “sex instinct” and the “power instinct,” while positing a “religious instinct for wholeness” that could reconcile and transcend them. I found this arrangement puzzling and theoretically incoherent, although it soon became evident that the “power instinct” was chiefly a rhetorical figure for Nietzsche’s interpretation of life, while the “sex instinct” referred to Freud’s (35-43).

Although the chapter on “Previous History of the Ufo Phenomenon” discusses instances going back to the sixteenth century and speculates about its presence in antiquity, Jung is especially concerned about the putatively US-centric 20th-century UFO sightings glut as a manifestation of collective mentality during a current crisis. In his opening “Introductory” he points to the precession of the equinox from Pisces to Aquarius or succession of “Platonic month” as the basis or essential context for stresses on the modern worldview (5). In his concluding remarks, he focuses on the Cold War and the polar division of the world system between red (Soviet) and white (US) alchemical complements (111).

Psychology and Religion

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Psychology and Religion: West and East by C G Jung.

This seven-hundred-page tome is volume eleven of Jung’s Collected Works. I already own and have read many of its more substantial pieces in other editions. For example, I have the Bollingen series Answer to Job under its own cover, “Transformation Symbolism and the Mass” is in the Eranos Yearbook anthology The Mysteries, and I have recently read “Psychologists or the Clergy?” as part of Modern Man in Search of a Soul. In this review, I will confine myself to some comments on the objects of my recent reading in a copy borrowed from the library of Colorado Mountain College: the several essays concerned with Trinitarian doctrine and symbolism in Christianity.

Jung found various cross-cultural precedents for the Trinity. Most significantly, he focused on an ancient Egyptian notion grouping the Royal Father Osiris and the Royal Son Horus with the Ka-mutef, or “Bull of his Mother,” the third term being explained as “the procreative power of the deity.” He also pointed to the triune nature of the World Soul in Plato’s Timaeus, and to Plato’s Demiurge, created world, and World Soul as their own trinity. He mentioned the cultural continuity from Egypt to the Hellenistic world in which Christianity was incubated, but he saw the Christian Trinity not so much as derivative from these earlier examples but as a later, parallel expression of the same generic spiritual function. In Jung’s jargon, the Trinity is an archetype of the collective unconscious. His interest in it, he claims, is not metaphysical but psychological. He wants to understand why this idea should have gained such pre-eminence, and what is its ongoing role in the mind of humanity.

He observes the unreasonable and unnatural aspects of the Trinity as evidence of their grounding in the unconscious. He points to the systematic exclusion of the Mother or feminine element from both Egyptian and Christian expressions of the Trinity. Jung knew that in some early Christian theologies the Holy Spirit was feminized in the form of the Christ-counterpart Sophia. But he was also aware of the evanescence of that doctrine and the predominant concept of the Holy Ghost—like the Ka-mutef—as a “hypostasis of procreative power,” writing:

“The masculine father-son relationship is thus lifted out of the natural order … and translated to a sphere from which the feminine element is excluded. … Father-son-life … constitute the patriarchal formula that was ‘in the air’ long before the advent of Christianity.” (par. 197-198)

Despite the Trinity’s archetypal status, Jung takes it to be incomplete, excluding not only the maternal but the material of the world. It is also impaired in its Christian recension by a moral one-sidedness. He discusses approaches to completing a “quaternity” with a fourth term personifying the unconscious operation of the psyche. Where he stresses the moral limits of the Trinity, Jung identifies this fourth term with Satan or the psychological shadow. But if we allow the Trinity itself to be beyond good and evil, then the fourth term is certainly the feminine complement of the Trinity, the anima as presented in Jung’s system. And he claims:

“Medieval iconology, embroidering on the old speculations about the Theotokos, evolved a quaternity symbol in its representations of the coronation of the Virgin and surreptitiously put it in place of the Trinity.” (par. 251)

An example of such representations serves as a frontispiece to Jung’s book: Jean Fouquet’s painting of The Trinity with the Virgin Mary from a medieval Book of Hours. The imputation of agency to “iconology” in this case does not reflect official church doctrines or underground teachings, but rather an exercise of the collective unconscious in the course of conventional expressions. As Barbara Newman has shown in her study God and the Goddesses, these representations were in no way heterodox for their period.

Although the clearest theoretical articulation of these ideas is in the second set of lectures “A Psychological Approach to the Dogma of the Trinity,” the first set, titled simply “Psychology and Religion,” touches on them often, in the context of an account of therapeutic practice involving the dreams of a psychiatric client, showing the relevance of the “archetype” to those who are neither theologians nor mystics. [via]

Modern Man in Search of a Soul

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Modern Man in Search of a Soul by C G Jung, translated by Cary F Baynes and W S Dell.

Modern Man in Search of a Soul collects ten lectures on psychotherapy, cultural mentalities, and religion, given by Jung in the late inter-war period. They were translated into English by Baynes in 1933 and supplemented with an essay by Jung on the distinctions between his psychology and that of Freud. My copy is a Harvest/HBJ mass-market paperback that I can easily imagine littering college campuses in the 1960s.

Jung says,”To the psyche, the spirit is no less the spirit even though it be called sexuality” (73), and in this point he seems to be opposing the Freudian focus on “sexuality” to Jung’s own preference for construing issues in terms of “spirit.” The key subtext here, however, is the critical identity and continuity between spiritual and sexual phenomena. Since Jung avoids mentioning sex at least as often as Freud insists upon it, this continuity is useful to keep in mind when reading either thinker.

Although I have been accustomed to seeing Jung as the primary representative of the “right wing” of the psychoanalytic tradition (contrasted with Reich and Marcuse on the left), there are passages here which prompt me to suspend that judgment. For example he declares, “My aim is to bring about a psychic state in which my patient begins to experiment with his own nature–a state of fluidity, change and growth, in which there is no longer anything eternally fixed and hopelessly petrified” (66). Thus Jung identifies his therapeutic goal with the loosening of character, and the subjection of identity to a changeable individual will.

In the lecture “The Stages of Life,” Jung presents a theory of climacteric personal development. Very significantly he uses a solar metaphor identifying birth with dawn and death with sunset. He also remarks–with particular reference to his patients–that 20th-century Western culture suffers a poverty of institutions capable of psychically orienting individuals to the “afternoon” of life, and claims that “Our religions were always such schools in the past” (109). In this last point, I think he errs. Religions have always had a much wider range of functions, and it is in particular the orders of initiation (most often embedded in religious contexts) that supplied the desideratum.

The individual passage of the book that made the most striking impression on me was in “The Basic Postulates of Analytical Psychology,” where I take Jung to be painting an eloquent picture of what Eliphas Levi called The Baphomet of Mendes, a pantheistic and magical figure of the absolute: “If it were permissible to personify the unconscious, we might call it a collective human being combining the characteristics of both sexes, transcending youth and age, birth and death, and, from having at his command a human experience of one or two million years, almost immortal. If such a being existed, he would be exalted above all temporal change … he would be a dreamer of age-old dreams and, owing to his immeasurable experience, he would be an incomparable prognosticator. He would have lived countless times over the life of the individual, of the family, tribe and people, and he would possess the living sense of the rhythm of growth, flowering, and decay” (186).

Lectures of less esoteric interest include “Aims of Psychotherapy,” which elaborates a context in which to situate Freudian, Adlerian, and Jungian approaches to the discipline, as well as “A Psychological Theory of Types,” which expands Jung’s introversion/extraversion polarity with the two additional dimensions of thinking/feeling and sensation/intuition, but without the perception/judging axis that would complete them in the now-ubiquitous MBTI. The lecture “Psychology and Literature” focuses on visionary literature, and is thus actually more concerned with spiritual states and phenomena than literary production as such. It even touches on one of my particular favorite works in this vein, the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili (157, 166).

The book’s final two chapters stand out for Jung’s discussion of religion as a barometer of collective spiritual states. In “The Spiritual Problem of Modern Man” he discusses the “deep affinity with Gnosticism” expressed by contemporary religion, and he also treats at length the extent to which the “repellent” strains of occultism, Theosophy, and imported Oriental mysticisms both demonstrate the obsolescence of established religious forms and may serve as the seedbeds for their successors. “Psychotherapists or the Clergy?” treats the conundrum of secular psychotherapists being preferred to clergy by clients whose actual demand is for what traditionally would have been considered spiritual direction. [via]

Shadow and Evil in Fairy Tales

Shadow and Evil in Fairy Tales by Marie-Louise von Franz, a C G Jung Foundation book, a 1995 revised edition paperback from Shambhala Publications, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Marie-Louise von Franz Shadow and Evil in Fairy Tales from Shambhala Publications

“Fairy tales seem to be innocent stories, yet they contain profound lessons for those who would dive deep into their waters of meaning. In this book, Marie-Louise von Franz uncovers some of the important lessons concealed in tales from around the world, drawing on the wealth of her knowledge of folklore, her experience as a psychoanalyst and a collaborator with Jung, and her great personal wisdom. Among the many topics discussed in relation to the dark side of life and human psychology, both individual and collective, are:
· How different aspects of the “shadow”—all the affects and attitudes that are unconscious to the ego personality—are personified in the giants and monsters, ghosts, and demons, evil kings and wicked witches of fairy tales
· How problems of the shadow manifest differently in men and women
· What fairy tales say about the kinds of behavior and attitudes that invite evil
· How Jung’s technique of Active imagination can be used to overcome overwhelming negative emotions
· How ghost stories and superstitions reflect the psychology of grieving
· What fairy tales advise us about whether to struggle against evil or turn the other cheek ” — back cover

The Mysteries

The Mysteries: Papers from the Eranos Yearbooks, edited by Joseph Campbell, the 1990 fifth paperback printing of Bollingen Series XXX Vol 2 from Princeton University Press, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Joseph Campbell The Mysteries from Princeton University Press / Bollingen

“Since 1933, the Eranos Conferences have been held at Ascona in southern Switzerland. Distinguished scholars from Europe, Asia, and America have been invited to a ‘shared feast’ (eranos) and have lectured on themes chosen by the Director of Eranos, the late Olga Froebe-Kapteyn. The lectures originally appeared in the Eranos-Jahrbücher (Zurich) and selections translated into English have been published in Papers from the Eranos Yearbooks, of which this is the second volume. Thirteen scholars—including C. G. Jung, C. Kerényi, Walter F. Otto, and Hugo Rahner—are represented in this collection, which is drawn from the years 1936, 1939m 1940–41, 1942, and 1944. The volume is edited by Joseph Campbell and translated by Ralph Manheim and R.F.C. Hull.” — back cover

Essays included are:

  • Paul Masson-Oursel, “The Indian Theories of Redemption in the Frame of the Religions of Salvation”
  • Paul Masson-Oursel, “The Doctrine of Grace in the Religious Thought of India”
  • Walter F. Otto, “The Meaning of the Eleusinian Mysteries”
  • Carl Kerényi, “The Mysteries of the Kabeiroi”
  • Walter Wili, “The Orphic Mysteries and the Greek Spirit”
  • Paul Schmitt, “The Ancient Mysteries in the Society of Their Time, Their Transformation and Most Recent Echoes”
  • Georges Nagel, “The ‘Mysteries’ of Osiris in Ancient Egypt”
  • Jean de Manasce, “The Mysteries and the Religion of Iran”
  • Fritz Meier, “The Mystery of the Ka’ba: Symbol and Reality in Islamic Mysticism”
  • Max Pulver, “Jesus’ Round Dance and Crucifixion According to the Acts of St. John”
  • Hans Leisegang, “The Mystery of the Serpent”
  • Julius Baum, “Symbolic Representations of the Eucharist”
  • C G Jung, “Transformation Symbolism in the Mass”
  • Hugo Rahner, “The Christian Mystery and the Pagan Mysteries.”


Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Masochism: Coldness and Cruelty & Venus in Furs by Gilles Deleuze and Leopold von Sacher-Masoch:

Gilles Deleuze and Leopold von Sacher-Masoch's Masochism


This volume reprints the masochistic literary paradigm Venus in Furs, but prefaced to Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s novel is a theoretical essay by Gilles Deleuze, Coldness and Cruelty, of about the same length as the Masoch text. I read the volume cover-to-cover following the page numbers, but I think I would advise other readers to take on the Masoch first, and then the Deleuze.

The unnamed narrator of Venus in Furs (Masoch himself?) begins by relating a dream to his friend Severin, who responds by presenting him with an autobiographical manuscript, so that the story of Severin’s amorous enslavement forms the body of the novel. The novel is vivid and fast-moving, and I would count it a pleasure to read regardless of one’s sympathy or antipathy for the characters and their behavior. To the extent that there is sex, it is not at all explicit. What is described is the intimate context of the relationship, along with the participants’ emotional reactions. Those should fire the reader’s imagination to the extent that one takes away the impression of a highly salacious account. At the end, Severin, now an abusive tyrant over his wife, claims to have been “cured” of his desire for subjugation, but the narrator expresses some ambivalence on the judgment.

As for Masoch’s own views, these are somewhat clarified and confirmed by a set of appendices: an autobiographical essay on a formative childhood experience that parallels one described by Severin in the novel, a pair of contracts in which Masoch subjugated himself to his partners, and a fragment of memoir by his wife that details their curious encounters with someone who may have been Ludwig II.

The Deleuze text is decidedly less entertaining, but certainly has some value. He is at pains to criticize what he calls the “sadomasochistic entity,” i.e. he disputes the functional overlap and identity of sadism with masochism, insisting instead that the two phenomena transpire on different planes and concern themselves with different objects. As I digest his thesis, masochism is the carnal application of dialectical imagination, while sadism is that of critical inquiry. “In trying to fill in the gaps between masochism and sadism, we are liable to fall into all kinds of misapprehensions, both theoretical and practical or therapeutic” (109). Deleuze discusses and argues with the relevant theories of Freud, Reik, and Lacan. I am reasonably persuaded by the essay, although I think it may overstate its case with a measure of polemical absoluteness. [via]



The Hermetic Library Reading Room is an imaginary and speculative future reification of the library in the physical world, a place to experience a cabinet of curiosities offering a confabulation of curation, context and community that engages, archives and encourages a living Western Esoteric Tradition. If you would like to contribute to the Hermetic Library Reading Room, consider supporting the library or contact the librarian.

The Psychology of Transference

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Psychology of the Transference by C G Jung:

C G Jung's The Psychology of Transference


The central matter of this book is Jung’s exigesis of the illustrations to the “Rosarium Philosophorum,” in keeping with his psychological reading of medieval alchemy. The sequence of illustrations with their original captions is worth sustained attention in its own right. Jung’s explanations are sometimes mildly incoherent—a fact which he recognizes and excuses on the grounds that he is attempting to address inherently unconscious processes.

He is right to note that the “transference” process is not unique to the analyst-analysand relationship, but is common to the vast majority of spousal scenarios, and in a more general way to the experience of “objective” reality as a whole. And yet, despite his prefatory digression that “The Church would be an ideal solution for anyone seeking a suitable receptacle for the chaos of the unconscious, were it not that everything man-made, however refined, has its imperfections,” (par. 392) he constrains his discussion of psychological projection in religious contexts to the doctrinally hypostasized figures of myth and doctrine, rather than treating the actual relationships among worshippers and religious officials. Perhaps he balked (unconsciously?) at making so plain the sacerdotal role of the psychoanalyst! [via]



The Hermetic Library Reading Room is an imaginary and speculative future reification of the library in the physical world, a place to experience a cabinet of curiosities offering a confabulation of curation, context and community that engages, archives and encourages a living Western Esoteric Tradition. If you would like to contribute to the Hermetic Library Reading Room, consider supporting the library or contact the librarian.

The Gnostic

You may be interested in Voices of Gnosticism and The Gnostic: A Magazine of Gnosticism, Western Esotericism and Spirituality put out by Bardic Press. I saw several issues of The Gnostic at the Esoteric Book Conference and thought they were well done. I regret not picking them up at the time, but they are available still.


Voices of Gnosticism

“For several years, Miguel Conner has engaged the most prominent writers and scholars on Gnosticism and early Christianity on Aeon Byte Gnostic Radio. These interviews with 13 leading scholars represent one of the best ways to get to know ancient Gnosticism, the movement that has inspired Dan Brown, Philip Pullman, Philip K. Dick and The Matrix movies. Read what the best minds have to say about the Gnostic sects, the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Judas, Mary Magdalene, heresy, the origins of Gnosticism, and the original teachings of Jesus.

Elaine Pagels · Marvin Meyer · Bart Ehrman · Bruce Chilton · Stevan Davies · David Fideler · Birger Pearson · John Turner · Einar Thomassen · Jason BeDuhn · Karen King · Jane Schaberg · April DeConick”


The Gnostic 1

“The first issue of a tri-annual journal on Gnosticism in all its forms. Featuring interviews with Alan Moore and Sethian Gnostic expert John Turner; a complete translation of the Gospel of Judas; Tim Freke on The Gospel of the Second Coming; articles on William Burroughs, Philip K.Dick, the Alternative Judas, Gnosticism and Magic; columns, book reviews and more.”


The Gnostic 2

“The second issue of The Gnostic: A Journal of Gnosticism, Western Esotericism and Spirituality. Featuring an interview with Colin Wilson and an indepth examination of his ideas on the occult. An interview with Tessa Dick, widow of Philip K Dick, plus an excerpt from her memoir and Anthony Peake’s analysis of Dick’s precognitive abilities. An interview with noted scholar April DeConick on the Gospel of John. The Gnosticism of the TV series The Prisoner. Kimetikos, Jeremy Puma’s Gnostic practice. Tony Blake’s meetings with remarkable people including J.G. Bennett, David Bohm and Idries Shah. Articles on asceticism, the symbolism of the Bible, resurrection, Schrodinger’s Gun, a short story by Andrew Phillip Smith. Extensive book reviews, original art and more.”


The Gnostic 3

“The third issue of The Gnostic: A Journal of Gnosticism, Western Esotericism and Spirituality. Featuring a cover by C.G. Jung, Lance Owens on Jung’s Red Book. Interviews with David Tibet of Current 93, Jacob Needleman and Zohar expert Daniel C. Matt. Articles on Gnostic anime, Robert Graves, Gnostic texts, the Gospel of Luke, William Blake, deja vu, coincidence, a ten page comic, reviews and much more.”


The Gnostic 4

“The fourth issue of The Gnostic: A Journal of Gnosticism, Western Esotericism and Spirituality. Alan Moore’s Fossil Angels, an investigation into the contemporary occult scene. Interviews with Stephan Hoeller and Miguel Conner. Anthony Peake on the Quantum Pleroma. Sean Martin tells a Gnostic sci-fi tale. Robert M.Price on the Gnostic Gospel of John. Bill Darlison on the zodiac in the Gospel of Mark. Gnostic influences on Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian. The plight of the Mandaeans. The gematria of Marcus the Magician. The Gospel of Thomas, a translation and Fourth Way interpretation. Gnostic politics. John Cowper Powys. The complete text of the Gnosis of the Light–a book within a magazine! Egyptian cat mummies and more. And we review enough books to fill a whole shelf. Cover and interior illustrations by Laurence Caruana.”