Tag Archives: June Singer

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.

Blake, Jung, and the Collective Unconscious

Blake, Jung, and the Collective Unconscious: The Conflict Between Reason and Imagination by June Singer, introduced by M Esther Harding part of the Jung on the Hudson book series, a 2000 paperback from Nicholas-Hays, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Amusingly, I also have a previous version of this same book, which I purchased on a separate occasion, but that has a different, more provocative, title and from another publisher: The Unholy Bible: Blake, Jung, and the Collective Unconscious by June Singer, introduced by M Esther Harding, a 1986 paperback from Sigo Press, is also part of the collection at the Reading Room.

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

“More than ever, the time is ripe for June Singer’s penetrating commentary on William Blake’s work. The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. For even the most devout literary scholars and art historians, much of Blake’s mystical visions and writing are perplexing. With his pen and brush, he gave birth to mythological figures and fantastic metaphors. Singer shows us that Blake was actually tapping into the collective unconscious and giving form and voice to primordial psychological energies, or archetypes, that he experienced in his inner and outer world. Blake’s writing and art was his personal dialogue between God and his own inner self—a reconciliation of duality—in which we can find clues to contemporary issues.

In the 18th century, Blake was a pioneer in finding, nurturing, and celebrating his personal connection with the divine, a search that still appeals to people who are coming to terms with the contemporary struggle between science and spirituality—the conflict between reality and imagination. With clarity and wisdom, Singer examines the images and words in each plate of Blake’s work, applying in her analysis the concepts that C. G. Jung advanced in his psychological theories. There is no more perfect lens with which to look at Blake’s work than that of Jung’s concept of the archetypes, the process of individuation, and the mysterium coniunctionis, in which consciousness and the unconscious are united.

This edition includes a new preface by Jung [sic!] Springer and a reproduction of 24 pages from Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.” — back cover


 

June Singer M Esther Harding The Unholy Bible from Sigo Press