April 6, 2001
Phlit is back! Sorry for the 3-month hiatus.
I’d like to start by mentioning a young Chinese philosopher, Mo Luo. He’s a deep thinker and a gifted writer; he bodes well for the future of Chinese literature. His work has not been translated, so I haven’t actually read him. Perhaps these humble sentences are the first discussion of his work outside China. He’s about 40 years old, grew up in a small village in Jiangxi Province, then went to Shanghai (perhaps attending college in Shanghai), and currently teaches at a small Beijing college. He often publishes in Chinese newspapers and magazines. One of his favorite writers is Lu Xun (also spelled Lu Hsün), a writer of essays and stories who is a giant in 20th-century Chinese literature. I’d like to quote from one of Mo Luo’s books (the title of the book might be translated as Notes of a Humiliated Man: The Living Experience of a Street Thinker):
“A literary work is the materialization of a writer’s personal spirit.... There’s a Chinese saying: ‘If one wants to learn poetry, one should look beyond the poem.’ What is beyond the poem? The writer’s all-embracing love for the world’s mountains, rocks, water, soil, grass, woods, animals, people.... This subject becomes clear if we look closely at Lu Xun’s personality and writing. Leaving aside the length of Lu Xun’s literary career, and the volume of his work, he stands above everyone because of his spirit. He has a great personality, a noble spirit, a broad heart, mighty strength.... Everyone should aspire to stand high and create new. Everyone should aspire to perfect themselves and improve the world. If one doesn’t demand this of oneself, if one merely writes for the sake of writing, then what on earth can you create?”
The preface to Mo Luo’s Notes of a Humiliated Man is written by Yu Jie, a young essayist whose works are well known in China. Mo Luo seems to be fond of the aphoristic style; he praises the aphorisms of Yu Jie and others.
Mo Luo often criticizes (in harsh, sweeping terms) the Chinese cultural and academic establishment. One of the chief themes of his work is the humiliation of the Chinese people, their lack of dignity, their lack of respect for man. One of Mo Luo’s essays, which appears to be based on his own life, describes a trip to the southern island of Hainan. He brought two books on the trip, one by Lu Xun, one by Nietzsche.
Christianity is popular in China — among intellectuals as well as non-intellectuals. But Mo Luo seems to be a Nietzschean rather than a Christian.
Postscript (May, 2004): Mo Luo and Yu Jie seem to be fond of Christianity, but not Christians themselves. They believe that China needs Christian ethics, the ethics of brotherly love. They quote the Bible frequently.
Postscript (April, 2011): Mo Luo has written a new book, China Rises, which is described as “ultra-nationalist.” For more information, click here.
Postscript (February, 2012): An article in the New York Times discusses dissident writer Yu Jie, who recently left China and settled in Virginia. He’s a devout Christian. In 2012, he turned 38.
At the dedication of the Gettysburg cemetery, Everett spoke for 90 minutes, but no one remembers what he said. Lincoln, on the other hand, spoke for just a few minutes, and his words are immortal because they were sincere, and eloquence comes from sincerity. One of our best presidents, Washington, gave the shortest State of the Union speech. Our worst president, Clinton, gave the longest State of the Union speech. Honesty uses few words, dishonesty never stops talking.
While Freud was a child of the Western scientific tradition, Jung was inclined toward the mystical, the irrational, and the occult. While Freud respected reason and science, and the critical spirit of the Enlightenment, Jung felt that Western man’s worship of science and reason was leading him to spiritual bankruptcy. While Freud wrote essays on Western icons like Shakespeare and Michelangelo, Jung wrote essays on Eastern religion, and on Eastern classics like the I Ching. While Freud can’t match Jung’s depth of thought, Jung can’t match Freud’s clear, concise style.
As a youth in Switzerland, Jung was interested in philosophy, and found Nietzsche’s Zarathustra inspiring. He was also interested in medicine, and decided to go to medical school. Jung says that when he was finishing medical school, “I was preparing for my final exams, and I also had to know something about psychiatry, so I took up Krafft-Ebing’s textbook on psychiatry. I read first the introduction... and then it happened. Then it happened. I thought, this is it, this is the confluence of medicine and philosophy! ....I knew absolutely that this was the thing for me; it came over me with the most tremendous rush. You know, my heart beat so... I could hardly stand it.”1 Thus, Jung describes his decision to become a psychiatrist, and thereby combine medicine and philosophy.
As a young psychiatrist, Jung admired Freud’s work, and sent Freud several of his own essays. Freud wrote back to Jung, and in 1906, Jung visited Freud in Vienna. They met at one in the afternoon, and talked for thirteen hours. Later, however, their relationship deteriorated, partly because Jung was fascinated by the occult, and Freud regarded it as sheer nonsense.
The best introduction to Jung is Man and His Symbols, which was written by Jung and his disciples. Though it isn’t as concise and well-organized as Freud’s works, Man and His Symbols contains an abundance of provocative ideas and fascinating stories. It’s a readable book, liberally sprinkled with illustrations; avoid the paperback version, which contains fewer illustrations than the hardcover version. Man and His Symbols was Jung’s last project; Jung died in 1961, just before the book was finished. Man and His Symbols was Jung’s attempt to reach a wide audience; Man and His Symbols is a good introduction to Jung. In the 1950s, Jung appeared on British television; he impressed many viewers, and people urged him to write a book that would introduce his ideas to a wide audience. At first Jung refused. Later, however, Jung had a dream in which he was addressing a large public, and his audience understood him. Jung believed (as many primitive peoples believed) that dreams offered advice and guidance, and that one should heed one’s dreams. So Jung agreed to write a book for the average reader. Thus, Man and His Symbols was born.
I also recommend Jung’s Symbols of Transformation, which discusses the hero archetype and mythology. Jung’s interest in mythology is related to his concept of the collective unconscious. Myths are expressions of the unconscious, and because the unconscious is collective, the same myths are found in different peoples. Jung felt that myths, like religious creeds, helped to integrate consciousness with the unconscious. “Myths and fairytales,” wrote Jung, “give expression to unconscious processes, and their retelling causes these processes to come alive again and be recollected, thereby re-establishing the connection between conscious and unconscious.... Since the symbol derives as much from the conscious as from the unconscious, it is able to unite them both.”2
Jung’s Psychological Types is an excellent book; no one ever knew more about human nature than Jung did. Answer to Job is an interesting work about Christianity. Aion deals with astrology and alchemy, and their relation to Christianity. Jung had a strong interest in alchemy — its psychological meaning and its symbolism. Jung’s psychology is a search for the self, for wholeness, for the integration of consciousness with the unconscious, and Jung thought that alchemy was also a search for the self and for wholeness. Like some of Jung’s other books, Aion is interesting and profound, but dry and long-winded.
Unlike Freud, Jung was friendly toward religion. Jung was not an atheist; he believed in God as an unconscious entity, an archetypal being. Jung didn’t scoff at the notion that Jesus was the son of God; he believed in Jesus as the incarnation of the son-of-God archetype. But Jung was rather scornful of contemporary Christianity: “The Christian nations have come to a sorry pass; their Christianity slumbers and has neglected to develop its myth further in the course of the centuries. Those who gave expression to the dark stirrings of growth in mythic ideas were refused a hearing.... A myth is dead if it no longer lives and grows.”3
Jung believed that modern man needed to re-connect with myths, with dreams, with the unconscious. He believed that modern man had bought technological progress at the price of spiritual sickness: “Reforms by advances, that is, by new methods or gadgets, are of course impressive at first, but in the long run they are dubious and in any case dearly paid for. They by no means increase the contentment or happiness of people on the whole. Mostly, they are deceptive sweetenings of existence, like speedier communications which unpleasantly accelerate the tempo of life and leave us with less time than ever before.”4
For Jung, expressing his ideas on paper wasn’t enough: “I had to achieve a kind of representation in stone of my innermost thoughts.” Jung constructed a stone tower on the shore of a Swiss lake, and he lived there as Thoreau lived on the shore of Walden Pond: “I have done without electricity, and tend the fireplace and stove myself. Evenings, I light the old lamps. There is no running water, and I pump the water from the well. I chop the wood and cook the food. These simple acts make man simple; and how difficult it is to be simple!”5
I recommend Memories, Dreams, Reflections, which is Jung’s summary of his life and work, as dictated to an assistant; much of it deals with parapsychology. Jung believed that, in the unconscious, time and space have no effect, so the unconscious can perceive future events, and events taking place elsewhere. Before World War I broke out in 1914, Jung anticipated the outbreak of a pan-European war from which only Switzerland would emerge unscathed: “In October 1913....I lost consciousness of time and place and [had] an hallucination, a waking dream. I was looking at the map of Europe and saw how, country by country, beginning with France and Germany, all Europe became submerged under the sea. Shortly afterwards, the entire continent was under water with the exception of Switzerland: Switzerland was like a high mountain that the waves could not submerge.... I realized that the sea was of blood. Floating on the waves were corpses, roof tops, charred beams.”6
While Freud deserves credit for pioneering the study of the unconscious, Jung deserves credit for drawing attention to the infinite potential, and deep wisdom, that lies within every human psyche.
|1.|| C. G. Jung Speaking: Interviews and Encounters, “1952” back|
|2.|| Aion, (Collected Works, v. 9, part II), ¶280 back|
|3.|| Memories, Dreams, Reflections, ch. 12 back|
|4.|| ibid, ch. 8 back|
|5.|| ibid back|
|6.||C. G. Jung Speaking: Interviews and Encounters, “1952” back|