Conversations With Great Thinkers

4. Psychology

by L. James Hammond
© L. James Hammond 2017
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1. Silent Communication  Communication takes place not only through words, but also through everything that one does, and through everything that one merely thinks or feels. The unconscious of one person can read the unconscious of other people. People often receive letters or phone calls from those who have been occupying their thoughts, as if telepathic communication preceded written or verbal communication. Children and animals are especially sensitive to people’s feelings because they’re more unconscious than adults; their unconscious isn’t impeded by consciousness. Children and animals can often read people’s feelings, even when people try to hide their feelings from them.

Goethe noticed that thoughts and feelings are often communicated by non-verbal means.

One soul [said Goethe] may have a decided influence upon another, merely by means of its silent presence.... It has often happened to me that, when I have been walking with an acquaintance, and have had a living image of something in my mind, he has at once begun to speak of that very thing.... We have all something of electrical and magnetic forces within us.

Feelings can be communicated between people who aren’t near each other; the mind can traverse space. This occurs with special frequency between members of the same family. Heinrich Mann heard his sister, Carla, call to him before she committed suicide, though she was in Germany and he was in Italy. “I was strolling,” said Mann, “all was still; then I was called; from the house, I thought. So little prepared was I, that in the first moment it did not occur to me: no one here calls me by my given name.” Oscar Wilde had a vision of his mother’s death, and when his wife told him that his mother had died, he said that he knew it already.

The mind can traverse not only space but time as well. People often have a presentiment of what is about to happen. Mussolini, for example, had a presentiment of danger before an attempt on his life. “On October 31, 1926,” said Mussolini, “when I was in Bologna, the spiritual atmosphere seemed to me so oppressive that throughout the day I was anticipating disaster. In the evening there was an attempt on my life.”1

Psychic powers aren’t distributed to everyone in the same measure. Certain people — Swedenborg and Rasputin, for example — have exceptional psychic power. Swedenborg once told a group of people that a fire had just broken out in Stockholm, three hundred miles away, and such turned out to be the case. Swedenborg’s abilities were so well verified that even the skeptical Kant was impressed by them. As for Rasputin, he often amazed people by reading their minds. And there’s reason to believe, as Jung did, that Nostradamus had prophetic powers. Some have argued that people who are struck by lightning, and survive, end up with exceptional psychic powers.

We should keep an open mind toward the occult, and not dismiss it because it’s difficult to explain, and inconsistent with current worldviews. The occult is the largest unexplored continent in the intellectual world. It will probably play a leading role in the intellectual history of the twenty-first century, just as the psychology of the unconscious played a leading role in the twentieth century, and the theory of evolution played a leading role in the nineteenth century.

2. From God to the Unconscious  As long as Western man was preoccupied with religion and with God, his attention was diverted from himself, diverted from his own psyche, diverted from psychology and from parapsychology. As soon as religious belief declined, Western man began to look within himself. Schopenhauer was the first Western philosopher who rejected religion and turned to psychology instead. Seventy-five years before Freud, Schopenhauer stressed the importance of the unconscious and of sexuality. Schopenhauer also had a keen interest in the occult, and he often told stories about his occult experiences.

Schopenhauer’s successor, Nietzsche, also rejected religion and turned to psychology. Schopenhauer and Nietzsche foreshadowed Freud. Freud spoke of “the large extent to which psychoanalysis coincides with the philosophy of Schopenhauer,” and Freud said that Nietzsche was “another philosopher whose guesses and intuitions often agree in the most astonishing way with the laborious findings of psychoanalysis.”2

But while Nietzsche was interested in psychology, he wasn’t as interested in the occult as Schopenhauer was, just as Freud wasn’t as interested in the occult as Jung was. Jung was receptive to the occult in all its forms; Jung was even receptive to astrology and reincarnation.

3. Freud and the Occult  Freud was initially hostile to the occult, but he became more receptive as more evidence was presented to him. Eventually he realized that it was an enormous field, and largely unexplored. He said, “If I were at the beginning rather than at the end of a scientific career... I might possibly choose just this field of research, in spite of all difficulties.”

Freud’s disciples were divided on the occult — some were receptive, others skeptical. The skeptics warned Freud that if you give any ground, you’ll be overwhelmed. If, for example, you admit that telepathy exists, you’ll have to admit all sorts of magical influence. If you study near-death experiences, you’ll have to examine the evidence for life-after-death. And how can you stop there? You’ll be drawn into the study of ghosts, and that will lead you to the study of vampires.

So the skeptics in Freud’s circle, like skeptics today, insisted that the entire subject of the occult must be dismissed. But the evidence won’t go away, the subject keeps coming back. We should keep an open mind toward the occult, and keep looking at the evidence, while recognizing that it has always been fertile ground for fraud, superstition, and credulity.

4. Birth Order  Psychologists have long recognized that birth order has an effect on personality. An only child has a monopoly on parental love. An eldest child also has a monopoly on parental love — until another child is born. Thus, only children and eldest children develop self-confidence and an instinct for dominance. According to Freud, the great man is usually an only child or an eldest child; part of his greatness consists in his self-confidence. “He who has been the undisputed darling of his mother,” wrote Freud, “retains throughout life that victorious feeling, that confidence in ultimate success, which not seldom brings actual success with it.”

The youngest child is also sometimes “the undisputed darling of his mother,” since he’s the only child who has not yet grown up. This may be the reason why some youngest children attain eminence. Another reason why some youngest children attain eminence is that their sense of being inferior to their elders fires them with an ambition to become superior. Adler described this type of youngest child thus: “restlessly pushing forward, they surpass everyone by their initiative.”3

Since an eldest child is valued by his parents, he sees himself as valuable, takes himself seriously, takes life seriously, and develops self-discipline. A younger child, on the other hand, values himself less, and often lacks self-discipline; this lack of self-discipline shows itself in a variety of ways, including alcohol problems and drug problems. Consider, for example, the Carter brothers, Jimmy and Billy. The elder brother, Jimmy, became President through his self-discipline and determination, while Billy was known for his undisciplined behavior. Queen Elizabeth II was more self-disciplined than her younger sister, Margaret. Like Jimmy Carter, the queen outlived her younger sibling.

The influence of birth order on personality is far-reaching and multi-faceted; once one understands it, one finds examples of it everywhere.

5. Deformity is Daring  Just as a youngest child’s sense of being inferior sometimes makes him ambitious, so too a handicapped child’s sense of being inferior sometimes makes him ambitious. Examples of handicapped people who attained eminence are Demosthenes, Alexander Pope, Lichtenberg, Talleyrand, Byron, Kierkegaard, Toulouse-Lautrec and Goebbels.

As Byron wrote in The Deformed Transformed,

     Deformity is daring.
It is its essence to o’ertake mankind
By heart and soul, and make itself the equal —
Ay, the superior of the rest.

6. The Pendulum  Human nature tends to maintain a balance between asceticism and self-indulgence, between stoicism and epicureanism. Whenever one reaches an extreme of asceticism or of self-indulgence, one’s nature steers one back in the opposite direction. Human nature is self-regulating and avoids extremes. When, for example, one becomes depressed, and loses one’s appetite for life, as a result of being hard on oneself and living stoically, one changes direction, becomes indulgent toward oneself, and adopts the epicurean approach to life. The epicurean approach eventually reawakens one’s appetite for life. It develops into the stoic approach, and the cycle begins anew.

One could describe this cycle in Freudian terms by saying that when the tyranny of the super-ego has reached an extreme, the id makes a comeback and the ego tastes pleasure. After the ego is restored to harmony and health, it once again listens to the behests of the super-ego, and the cycle begins anew. Anatole France described this cycle by saying, “within every one of us there lives both a Don Quixote and a Sancho Panza to whom we hearken by turns.”

Just as human nature compensates for its own extremes, so too human nature compensates for circumstances. The mind overcomes unfavorable circumstances by drawing libidinal energy back into itself and by indulging the id’s desires. Tolstoy depicts a prisoner of war who creates his own happiness in the midst of hardships: “the harder his lot became, the more terrible his future, the more independent of his present plight were the glad and soothing thoughts, memories, and images that occurred to him.”4 The super-ego relaxes in times of sickness and misfortune, and becomes more severe in times of good fortune.

7. Silent Superiority  Lyndon Johnson (the former President) said that sometimes you shouldn’t respond to your critics: “Sometimes you have to just stand there and take it, like a jackass in a hailstorm.” A leader may be characterized by composure and silence. The Zuni Indians chose their leaders not for their eloquence, but for their silence. Faulkner says that people are “convinced of anything by an assumption of silent superiority”; people have a habit of “attributing wisdom to a still tongue.”5 The best argument is often silence.

Hitler began his speeches with a long silence. This enabled him to establish an unconscious rapport with his audience.

When Ted Kennedy first ran for the Senate, he had a debate with a primary opponent (a fellow Democrat). His older brother, John Kennedy, advised him “he’s going to hit you hard, and you’re going to have to keep your cool.” Ted was indeed attacked, but he assumed a posture of “silent superiority,” he stood there and took it like a jackass in a hailstorm, and he emerged victorious from the primary.

De Gaulle once put his Free French forces into action without consulting Churchill. Churchill was furious, summoned De Gaulle, and berated him at length. De Gaulle said nothing. After De Gaulle had left, Churchill said to his aide, “That was very fine, wasn’t it? I couldn’t have done it better myself.”

In India, there’s a legend about the Buddha’s conflict with a horde of demons. The demons attack, armed to the teeth, but the Buddha’s lotus throne is empty. The Buddha has entered a plea of nolo contendere, he has chosen not to fight. The best response to evil is sometimes no response.

8. Repose  Wilson Knight said that a great actor understands “the power of the thing left unsaid, the gesture not made.”6 A great actor not only has energy and passion, he also has repose. This repose, Knight says, “will always be partly unconscious and instinctive.”

Shakespeare understood acting, and he understood that repose is as important as passion. Hamlet advises the players,

In the very torrent, tempest, and, as I may say, whirlwind of passion, you must acquire and beget a temperance that may give it smoothness. O, it offends me to the soul, to hear a robustious periwig-pated fellow tear a passion to tatters, to very rags, to split the ears of the groundlings.7

Haiku poetry makes use of silence, makes use of “the thing left unsaid.” Suzuki said, “When a feeling reaches its highest pitch we remain silent, because no words are adequate. Even seventeen syllables may be too many.”8 Zen has as much respect for repose as Knight does; one might say that Zen is a synonym for repose.

In sports, as in the arts, repose is as important as energy. In baseball, for example, a batter must be able to not swing (not swing at a bad pitch). Since the pitch is coming at high speed, the batter only has a split-second to decide whether or not to swing; the batter, like the actor, must be “unconscious and instinctive.” In baseball, it’s a mistake to swing at everything, but it’s also a mistake to swing at nothing; a batter must be active and passive simultaneously, he must attain repose.

Muhammad Ali showed repose in his bout with George Foreman. Ali landed several punches early in the bout, but Foreman was unbowed, landed some punches, and seemed ready to overpower Ali. Instead of attacking, Ali retreated into his legendary “rope-a-dope” — in other words, Ali leaned against the ropes in a defensive posture, and allowed Foreman to punch him.

Foreman took the bait; Foreman had youth, energy, and power, but lacked repose. Foreman was like a batter who is over-eager, and swings at bad pitches. Foreman exhausted himself, and then Ali struck, and knocked him out. I don’t believe Ali had ever used the “rope-a-dope” before, or even conceived of it before. It was a stroke of genius, if ever there was a stroke of genius in an athletic competition, and like all strokes of genius, it was spontaneous, intuitive, instinctive. It came from the depths of his soul, and it signified that in those depths, there was repose.

The Roman general Fabius became famous for avoiding battle, for not attacking. Fabius was more successful than other Roman generals in dealing with Hannibal, the Carthaginian general. Fabius was given the nickname Cunctator, The Delayer; in English, we describe delaying tactics as “Fabian tactics.” One might say that Ali used Fabian tactics against Foreman, or one might say that Fabius used the “rope-a-dope” against Hannibal.

Nothing is more frustrating than being defeated by an opponent who uses Fabian tactics. Foreman was devastated by his defeat, and didn’t get over it for months, if not years; Foreman said he should have died in the ring. What makes such a defeat hard to bear is that you know you’ve been defeated by yourself, by your own eagerness, by your own lack of repose. You’re like the raging bull who rushes at the matador, only to be tricked, side-stepped, and run through.

9. Spite  The death of Socrates is a classic example of people stumbling into a quarrel, and no one being willing to back down. Socrates was accused of impiety, and of corrupting youth. “The penalty proposed was death,” J. B. Bury wrote, “but the accusers had no desire to inflict it; they expected that, when the charge was lodged in the archon’s office, Socrates would leave Attica, and no one would have hindered him from doing so.” But when we try to force someone to do what we want them to do, when we try to put someone in a box, they often resist, and they often find a way to assert themselves, or to strike back at us. The accusers of Socrates should have anticipated that he would be too proud to publicly retreat, too proud to publicly bow down to them. Socrates remained in Athens to face the charge, and he was condemned to death by a narrow majority.

According to Athenian law, a condemned man had the right to propose a lighter punishment than his accusers had proposed, and then the judges would choose one of the two punishments. Here again, Socrates was too proud to bargain for his life, too proud to bargain with his enemies. Instead of proposing a punishment that was significant, but less than death, Socrates proposed a trivial fine (say, 35 cents). By a wide majority, the judges voted to inflict the death penalty.

When a mother asks her son “why did you punch your little brother in the nose?” the response is often “he was asking for it.” If one of Socrates’ judges was asked, “why did you execute Socrates?” the judge might respond, “he was asking for it.”

According to Plato, Socrates died out of obedience to the law, out of loyalty to the legal system that he had lived under. Is Plato’s account credible? Isn’t it more likely that Socrates wanted to spite his enemies, that Socrates was too proud to publicly bow down to his enemies, that Socrates felt his execution would make his enemies look bad. Is it possible that Plato, when he conversed with Socrates, was too young to understand Socrates’ motives? If so, did Plato have a better understanding of Socrates’ motives when he grew older?

How does J. B. Bury explain the fact that Socrates didn’t try to save his life? “Socrates was full of days — he had reached the age of seventy — and life spent otherwise than in conversing in the streets of Athens would have been worthless to him.” Perhaps there is some truth in this, though Sophocles said that no one enjoys life more than an old man, and Socrates’ friends would probably have found him a comfortable home outside Athens. Perhaps Socrates stayed in Athens precisely because his enemies wanted him to leave. Bury doesn’t consider this possibility.

Nietzsche argued that the death of Socrates was a disguised suicide, that Socrates didn’t want to live. But if Socrates wanted to die, why did he choose this particular moment? People who want to die, consciously or unconsciously, can find a way to do so (sickness, accident, suicide, etc.). Assuming Socrates had suicidal impulses, why did he wait until this particular moment to act on those impulses? Like Bury, Nietzsche doesn’t consider the possibility that Socrates chose to stay in Athens because his enemies wanted him to leave, because he wanted to spite his enemies. If the death of Socrates is a suicide, it should be compared with the many cases in which someone commits suicide in order to strike a blow at another person — suicide from spite.

10. Frevel  People often get into trouble through playful teasing, childish daring. In English, we speak of “asking for it,” or “looking for trouble.”9 Jungians refer to this as frevel, a German word that’s related to the English word “frivolous”:

In many stories all over the world there is this kind of infantile daring which is not courage. It looks like it, but it isn’t. This pseudo-courage, which is infantile daring out of unawareness or lack of respect, is a common feature through which man steps suddenly into the area of the archetype of evil.10

An example of frevel can be found in the Beatrix Potter story, “Squirrel Nutkin.” Nutkin and some other squirrels go out to Owl Island to gather nuts. When they reach the island, they pay a call on the owl who lives there. While the other squirrels treat the owl deferentially, and give him various presents, Nutkin is impertinent, and teases the owl. Next day, the other squirrels are again deferential, while Nutkin continues his teasing. Day after day, Nutkin teases the owl. At first, the owl pays no heed to Nutkin, but finally he lashes out, and grabs Nutkin in his talons. Just before Nutkin is devoured, he manages to escape, scarred and mortified. Nutkin was “looking for trouble,” “asking for it,” being “frevelous.”

Like other forms of evil, frevel is readily apparent among children, but by no means absent from adults.

Solzhenitsyn was imprisoned in Stalin’s Gulag for many years. The cause of his imprisonment was a letter that he wrote to an old friend, a letter that was critical of Stalin. Didn’t Solzhenitsyn know that Stalin’s secret police opened letters, and that criticizing Stalin could land one in prison? Was Solzhenitsyn tempting fate, was he looking for trouble? Is this a case of frevel?

Swann is one of the main characters in Proust’s novel, Swann’s Way. Before Swann falls madly in love with Odette, Proust says that Swann is at a “dangerous age.” Swann is idle, he wants to fill up his life, he wants to try something new, he wonders what it is like to “live solely for love,” like the people he read about in novels. Swann is playing with fate, playing with life, and he ends up in an emotional Gulag. Is this a case of frevel?

Marie-Louise von Franz, a disciple of Jung, wrote

The one moment when I feel really bad in analysis is when I see in one of my analysands that infantile, daring curiosity about evil. An analysand may say, “Oh I like going to a place where there are murderers!” Or, “I like to experiment with this woman, I know she is an evil woman, but I must have some experience of life and I shall try out sleeping with her, I must explore that!” ....When you act out of a kind of frivolous attitude, or just out of intellectual curiosity, just to find out about it and with a lack of respect toward the infection and destructiveness of the phenomena, then one feels very uneasy.11

11. Associations  When meeting a person for the first time, one often associates him with a person whom one has known in the past. One thinks, “don’t I know him? Haven’t I met him before?” Thus, Proust’s narrator, when he met new people at the seashore, associated them with people whom he knew at Paris; “in the first few days of our visit to Balbec,” wrote Proust, “I had succeeded in finding Legrandin, Swann’s hall porter and Mme. Swann herself, transformed into a waiter, a foreign visitor whom I never saw again and a bathing superintendent.”12

12. Idealizations  When meeting a person for the first time, one often overrates him. One substitutes for the actual person parts of oneself and parts of one’s ideal. One of the characters in War and Peace, Prince Andrey, reveres a new acquaintance, Speransky, until he gets to know him, and then he becomes disillusioned with him. Arthur Koestler said that, as a young man, he had “intense and short-lived friendships,” starting with over-valuing his new acquaintance, thinking he was “the true, real ‘knowing one,’” and then the “illusion faded.”

13. The Hunter  Athletics is a sublimated form of war and hunting, and appeals to those who are aggressive and competitive. Athletes are sometimes said to have a “killer instinct.” Tolstoy said, “there are two types of men: hunters and non-hunters,”13 that is, athletes and non-athletes.

14. Class depends neither on money nor on education nor on personality. Class depends only on family background; the grandson of a king is from the highest class in society, though he may be penniless, uneducated and crude. People often marry someone from their own class, neither higher nor lower, just as people often marry someone from their own ethnic group. Likewise, in the business world, certain companies attract people from a certain class. Thus, even in an almost classless society, even in a thoroughly democratic society, class distinctions are still evident and are still maintained.

Though class distinctions are still evident, they’re far less evident than they once were. Class distinctions are a relic of earlier epochs, and they aren’t likely to exist for much longer. The upper class will gradually be inter-mixed with other classes, unless the upper class is preserved by strict rules governing marriage — like the rules in ancient Rome that prohibited marriage between a patrician and a plebeian — or unless the upper class is preserved by social customs that forbid marriage between classes.

15. Amor Fati  The psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross worked with terminally-ill patients. She argued that, when people are faced with death, they go through five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. The final stage, acceptance, is characterized by an acceptance of one’s fate and one’s mortality.

What if someone reached this final stage, and then recovered, and lived on? This is what seems to have happened to Nietzsche; he was gravely ill, he was expected to die, he reached the stage of acceptance of his fate and his mortality, and then he recovered. Nietzsche’s later works, beginning with his Gay Science, were written from beyond the grave, and often speak of amor fati, love of fate. Surely Nietzsche himself was aware of how much he owed to his illness, and how much he owed to the emotional instability that eventually caused him to go mad.

The ancients said, “to philosophize is to learn to die.” When one faces death, one learns to die. Nietzsche became a philosopher not only by studying philosophy, but also by facing death.

16. From Anger to Acceptance  In the final years of life, people often take a more positive attitude toward life than they did in their early years. Shakespeare’s final plays have a more positive spirit than his earlier works; one critic said that Shakespeare’s final plays, such as The Tempest, express a “serene and mystic joy,” while earlier works, such as Hamlet, express “spiritual pain and despairing thought.”14

When Shakespeare was approaching death, he achieved serenity. He was still at the height of his powers; he didn’t live long enough to experience senility (he died at 54). He knew he was dying, he didn’t die unexpectedly. For purposes of literature, he died at the perfect time. His last three years seem to have been extraordinarily productive — his physical powers ebbing away, but his creative powers at their zenith, and his spiritual progress complete.

17. Stages of Youth  At the time of puberty, libidinal energy from the id invades the ego, and produces such effects as violence and dishonesty. This libidinal energy also causes affection for both genders; during this period, love and friendship have their origins.

At about age fifteen, the conscious mind, afraid of the libidinal energy that is pouring in from the unconscious, begins to repress and to sublimate this libidinal energy. Repression results in a stoic lifestyle. The young Flaubert exemplifies this stoic lifestyle; Flaubert said that as an adolescent, he considered castrating himself, and “spent two whole years at that time without so much as looking at a woman.” The young Gide also lived stoically; he followed a rigid timetable, read the Gospels on the tram and on the playground, slept on boards, and awoke in the middle of the night to pray. H. G. Wells also lived stoically as an adolescent: “Every moment in the day had its task,” Wells wrote in his autobiography; “Harris and I would go for one-hour walks and I insisted on a pace of four miles an hour. During this pedestrianism we talked in gasping shouts.”15

Not only in history, but also in legend, youth represses the unconscious in order to develop a conscious personality. The legendary hero Perceval begins his career by killing the Red Knight. According to Jungians, the Red Knight represents Perceval’s own shadow:

This killing of the red shadow-knight corresponds to a violent repression of Perceval’s own individual affects and emotions as a first step towards building up a conscious personality. Every young person who grows up in a social milieu and develops into a responsible personality must go through this phase of a merciless subjugation of individual inner primitive emotionality before he can develop further.16

During adolescence, libidinal energy is sometimes expressed, sometimes repressed, and sometimes sublimated. While the adolescent’s repression of libidinal energy results in a stoic lifestyle, the adolescent’s sublimation of libidinal energy results in a ravenous appetite for knowledge. Hume, for example, “suffered a nervous breakdown at eighteen, following a period of intense intellectual discovery and voracious reading.” The young Napoleon also had a ravenous appetite for knowledge; “on attaining the age of puberty, [Napoleon’s] passion for reading was carried to excess; and he eagerly devoured the contents of every book that fell in his way.”17

During these years, there is discord in the psyche, the authority of the super-ego is insecure, and the id periodically rebels. As a result, one’s moods fluctuate. One is joyful one day and melancholy the next day. One lives like a stoic one day and like an epicurean the next day. These fluctuations of mood are manifested by one’s working habits and also by one’s eating habits.

If the youth is victorious in his battle with the unconscious, and if his head is filled with fresh knowledge and lofty ideals, he’ll be big-headed, proud. Pride is as characteristic of youth as stoicism. If, however, the youth loses his battle with the unconscious, his pride will be shattered; as Jung put it, “The presumption of the ego can only be damped down by moral defeat.”18 Just as the youth’s moods fluctuate, so too his pride fluctuates.

Repression and moral severity are necessary in order to control the unconscious, and raise the level of consciousness. Repression and moral severity are gradually dispensed with, however, once the unconscious has been controlled and the level of consciousness has been raised. By the age of about eighteen, the moralist has given way to his successor, the theorist. While the moralist is concerned with ethics — with controlling himself and with setting his own house in order — the theorist is concerned with politics and with finding his place in the world and in history.

The theorist, like the moralist, is an unbalanced personality, favoring consciousness at the expense of the unconscious. Since consciousness is individual and the unconscious is collective, favoring consciousness, as adolescence does, results in a hyper-individual, unsocial personality. If mental illness, as Jung says, is either an exaggeration of the individual or an exaggeration of the collective, the mental illness of adolescence consists in an exaggeration of the individual. Adolescence is mild and temporary insanity.

The exaggeration of the individual makes the adolescent a stranger to fellow feeling; he is encased in solitude. In Dostoyevsky’s novel, The Adolescent, the nineteen-year-old protagonist describes himself thus: “I was in general unaccustomed to the company of people, whoever they were.... I built myself a shell and stayed inside it.” The young Descartes was so unsocial that between the ages of eighteen and twenty he hardly ever left his apartment, and he didn’t give his address to his family or his friends.19

The adolescent often keeps a secret in order to set himself apart from other people, and to strengthen his sense of identity. “My ‘idea’,” says the protagonist of Dostoyevsky’s Adolescent, “sustained me in my weakness and misery.... Sometimes I felt cold shivers running down my spine when I imagined myself explaining ‘the idea’ to someone and, having explained it, suddenly realizing that now I had nothing special left.”20 Just as possessing a secret is characteristic of adolescence, so too revealing a secret is characteristic of post-adolescence. The secret is revealed at first to a single friend and later to more and more people. (Not only individuals, but sometimes entire societies, or groups within societies, keep secrets in order to build a sense of identity. Many religious cults in the ancient world emphasized secrecy.)

Why does adolescence keep secrets? Why does it favor consciousness? Why does it exaggerate the individual? Why does it go temporarily insane? These phenomena serve two purposes: they build a sense of identity, and they raise the level of consciousness.

As the adolescent matures, his sense of identity becomes stronger, and the repression of the unconscious abates. Asceticism isn’t a goal, it’s merely a means. Despite what many philosophers have said, the goal of the individual is not to attain the subjugation of feeling by reason, and the subjugation of the unconscious by consciousness. The goal of the individual is to attain inner harmony and a balanced personality.

18. Adolescence  One can also describe adolescence in abstract, metaphysical terms. The child, the pre-adolescent, lives in the finite, and is a stranger to the infinite. The adolescent catches a glimpse of the infinite, falls in love with it, and chases after it. While chasing the infinite, the adolescent loses the finite. This is the cause of the adolescent’s melancholy. He lives in the clouds, and is a stranger on the earth. He’s happy in eternity, but sad in the present moment. The task of the adult is to be equally at home in eternity and in the present moment. While adolescence can be called the discovery of the infinite, adulthood can be called the re-discovery of the finite.

19. Repression Dreams  If youth represses the unconscious, this repression will be evident in dreams — repression dreams, dreams of fighting the animal that symbolizes the unconscious, dreams of fighting the snake, the fish, or the dragon. Philosophers often achieve a high level of consciousness by repressing the unconscious, and this repression is evident in their dreams. Ruskin dreamed that a snake “fastened on my neck like a leech, and nothing would pull it off.”21 Ruskin later went insane. In Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Nietzsche describes a snake entering a shepherd’s mouth: “the snake had crawled into his throat — and there it had bitten itself fast.”22 Following Zarathustra’s advice, the shepherd bites off the snake’s head, and spits it out. Then he laughs triumphantly. Nietzsche later went insane.

Repression is natural and healthy as a temporary state, during adolescence, but unhealthy as a permanent state. As Jung said of Nietzsche, “Cases of this kind occur when the unconscious has been resisted for too long on principle, and a wedge violently driven between instinct and the conscious mind.”23

20. What Christianity Accomplished  Like the pre-adolescent, the ancient Greeks didn’t repress their unconscious; they didn’t declare war on their own bodies and their own feelings. Their mind was in harmony with their feelings.

During the time of the Roman Empire, harmony was replaced by excess. The Romans of this period were uninhibited, and indulged their carnal desires without restraint.

This period of moral anarchy was followed by a period of moral tyranny. During this period, Western man had a tendency toward repressing his unconscious. This tendency is evident not only in Christianity, but also in Stoicism, Mithraism and Neoplatonism. Christianity, after triumphing over other religions, introduced conscience and introspection throughout the Western world. Christianity raised Western man’s level of consciousness by repressing the unconscious, just as the period of adolescence raises the level of consciousness by repressing the unconscious.

21. National Character  People in England and the U.S., who were under the sway of ascetic Protestantism, were more ashamed of bodily pleasures and bodily functions than people on the Continent. In the late 1700s, the English traveler Arthur Young wrote, “In England a man makes water (if I may use such an expression) with a degree of privacy, and a woman never in sight of our sex. In France and Italy there is no such feeling.” After seeing a play in Venice, Young wrote:

There is between the front row of chairs in the pit and the orchestra... a space five or six feet without floor: a well-dressed man, sitting almost under a row of ladies in the side-boxes, stepped into this place, and made water with as much indifference as if he had been in the street; and nobody regarded him with any degree of wonder but myself.

Even today, these attitudes haven’t entirely disappeared. Hotels in England have separate bathrooms for men and women, while hotels on the Continent often have one bathroom for both sexes.

People in Russia, Spain, etc. often kiss each other when meeting or separating; this was also customary among the ancient Greeks and Romans. Such a practice would certainly not be found among people influenced by ascetic Protestantism.

When Dostoyevsky traveled in Europe, he noted “the gloomy nature of Englishmen.” This gloominess — which has often been remarked — is the result of ascetic Protestantism, which deprived people of spontaneity and joy, and turned life into a task. Stendhal spoke of, “the unhappy look without which one isn’t respected in England,” and he said that the English had an aversion for “wasting time”; Stendhal spoke of a person who “worked eighteen hours a day, like an Englishman.” Joyce noted that Protestants in Ireland were “quiet and serious.”

When Thoreau was living at Walden Pond, he became friends with a Catholic, a French Canadian.

He came along early [Thoreau wrote], crossing my bean-field, though without anxiety or haste to get to his work, such as Yankees exhibit. He wasn’t a-going to hurt himself. He didn’t care if he only earned his board.

Thoreau’s friend didn’t have the “gloomy nature” of an Englishman: “He interested me,” Thoreau wrote, “because he was so quiet and solitary and so happy withal; a well of good humor and contentment which overflowed at his eyes.”24

22. Beyond the Family  Jesus said, “Whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.”25 As this remark shows, Jesus didn’t preach devotion to one’s kin, he preached a universal morality. Before the time of Jesus, the individual was wrapped inside the family; Christianity liberated the individual from the family. During the early Middle Ages, Christians were known only by their first names; last names (family names) were added later. But among Greeks, Romans, Chinese, etc., the family name was of primary importance (they would say “Washington George” rather than “George Washington”).

In primitive societies, ancestor worship is widespread. Ancestor worship survived until the advent of Christianity, and it still survives in countries where Christian influence is weak. For someone in an ancestor-worshipping society,

the great interest of human life was to continue the descent, in order to continue the worship. The birth of a daughter did not fulfill the object of the marriage.... The family, like the worship, was continued only by the males.26

Even today, a peasant in China or India is eager for a male heir; a woman who is expecting a girl often gets an abortion, and a woman who gives birth to a girl often abandons it. In China, some young men complain that they can’t find wives because of the shortage of females.

The ascetic Protestant sects tried to treat everyone like a family member. Hence men were called “Brother John,” “Brother Thomas,” etc., and women were called “Sister Ann,” “Sister Sarah,” etc. The Chinese, on the other hand, are known for “unscrupulous competitiveness”27 toward people outside their family. As Weber said, “the typical distrust of the Chinese for one another is confirmed by all observers. It stands in sharp contrast to the trust and honesty of the faithful brethren in the Puritan sects, a trust shared by outsiders as well.”28 This trust facilitates business transactions. Likewise, extending morality beyond the family facilitates community spirit and community enterprises. Thus, ascetic Protestantism has contributed to the economic and political success of the English-speaking nations. It is doubtful whether democracy can work well in China, where community spirit is lacking, and family spirit is still predominant.

Likewise, it will be difficult to establish democracy in Iraq, where family spirit is far stronger than community spirit. In Iraq, family spirit is strengthened by the custom of marrying one’s cousin. Cousin-marriage was once routine in many parts of the world, but “it became taboo in Europe after a long campaign by the Roman Catholic Church.”29 Christian thinkers argued that cousin-marriage fostered family loyalty at the expense of universal love; they wanted morality to go beyond the family.

23. Romantic Love  The individual is often a microcosm of society; Shakespeare spoke of, “the state of a man, like to a little kingdom.”

In love, indulgence causes satiety, while abstinence causes desire. This is true in the life of society as well as in the life of the individual. The indulgence of the pagans caused satiety, hence the pagans didn’t romanticize love or idealize women. But the abstinence of the Christians caused desire, hence the Christians did romanticize love and idealize women. Romantic love originates with the medieval troubadours. This love was for an individual, not for preserving a dynasty or strengthening family loyalty.

24. Transference is “latching on” to another person — latching on emotionally. Transference is becoming preoccupied with another person, and making that person the focus of positive, often erotic feelings, or negative, hostile feelings. If we think of two people as two separate buildings, transference is an elevated walkway linking the buildings. Since it’s often unconscious, it might also be described as a subterranean passage linking the buildings.

To cope with such obsessions, Jungians recommend “active imagination,” while Zen recommends meditation. Both active imagination and meditation allow one’s emotion to express itself, but detach one from one’s emotion, observe it “at arm’s length,” perhaps even address it. There is a certain kinship between active imagination and meditation, a kinship that is part of the larger kinship between Jungian psychology and Eastern religion.

When Freud began practicing psychotherapy, he noticed that his patients often formed a transference for him, and he sometimes formed a counter-transference for them. He wasn’t sure how to handle the situation; he said later that the transference problem delayed the development of his new science for ten years. Eventually, however, he realized that transference was at the core of psychotherapy, and was the best tool in the therapist’s toolbox.

Freud tried to purge transference of erotic feelings by bringing these feelings into consciousness, and by showing the patient that he was “proof against every temptation.”30 Once transference was purged of eros, it could bring about a cure. The feelings transferred to the therapist could be drawn back onto the patient himself, thereby strengthening his ego, his character.31 If, however, a negative transference developed (feelings of hostility for the therapist), then a cure was impossible. Occasionally transference was simultaneously negative and positive, a situation that therapists called “ambivalence.”

Jung, who disagreed with Freud about many things, agreed with Freud that transference was at the heart of psychotherapy. Jung viewed alchemy as a kind of psychotherapy, and he looked for an analogue to transference in the field of alchemy. He found it in the coniunctio, which he regarded as the core of alchemy.

Jung noticed that a transference between doctor and patient was often accompanied by telepathy, by occult phenomena. When one of his patients shot himself, Jung felt a pain in the same place where the bullet struck his patient.

25. Equal Crimes?  There are three kinds of crime: active, contemplative, and unconscious.

ActiveJohn murders Tim.
ContemplativeJohn thinks of murdering Tim, and though he doesn’t actually do so, he likes the idea, and wishes that it were possible.
UnconsciousJohn neither murders Tim nor consciously desires to do so, but he has an unconscious will to do so, a will which it is difficult, if not impossible, for him to control. Drawn by this unconscious will, John leads Tim into a fatal accident.

Are these three kinds of crime morally equivalent? Or is active crime more culpable than contemplative, and contemplative more culpable than unconscious? In The Brothers Karamazov, Dostoyevsky portrays a man (Svidrigailov) who commits a murder and goes unpunished, and another man (Dmitri) who is punished for that murder though he didn’t commit it. There is a kind of justice in this punishment since the man who is punished desired the murder. “It is a matter of indifference who actually committed the crime,” writes Freud, in his discussion of The Brothers Karamazov, “psychology is only concerned to know who desired it emotionally and who welcomed it when it was done.”32

But is it really “a matter of indifference who actually committed the crime”? Is lusting after a 5-year-old girl equivalent to raping a 5-year-old girl? One who abstains from active crime, as Dmitri does, may be assumed to have other impulses that outweigh his criminal impulses, and these impulses (let us call them “positive impulses” or “virtuous impulses”) may be valuable to society and to the individual himself. As James Hillman said,

It is not what contents a person carries in his unconscious that reveal his character, for we have our statistical share of the bomber, murderer and pervert, but how one meets these contents.33

26. Abuse and Crime  A criminal’s childhood often includes abuse. Stalin and Hitler were both beaten as children. Abuse is sometimes unintentional: the Unabomber (Ted Kaczynski) was a normal, happy child until he was taken from his parents and kept in isolation for an extended period because of a health problem. According to his mother, he was never the same after being isolated.

27. Broken Home Better?  If one grows up in a warm home, surrounded by parental love, the outside world seems shockingly different. In the outside world, you find yourself dealing with people who don’t like you, and whom you don’t like, yet somehow you must deal with them, and carry on the battle of life. One might even say that it’s an advantage to grow up in a cold home, or a broken home, because then the outside world doesn’t seem shockingly different.

28. Father-less, Precocious  Three American politicians — Gerald Ford, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama — came from broken homes, and were raised by single mothers, and later, step-fathers. Throughout history, eminent men have often come from father-less households; such a household seems to breed sturdy independence, precocious maturity, and a gregarious nature.

29. Freud and Jung  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. 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.

Both Freud and Jung had the good fortune to find a career that dovetailed with their intellectual interests, a career that put them into daily contact with the cutting-edge of knowledge. 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.34

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 was uncomfortable with it.

While Jung was friendly toward religion in general, he 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.35

The best religion is one that satisfies both head and heart, one that meets both intellectual demands, and spiritual needs. The three major monotheistic religions — Christianity, Judaism, and Islam — no longer meet intellectual demands and spiritual needs, hence there’s a need for new approaches to religion.

30. Queen of the Sciences  “Psychology,” Nietzsche wrote, “is now again the path to the fundamental problems.... Psychology shall be recognized again as the queen of the sciences, for whose service and preparation the other sciences exist.” Nietzsche spoke of “this immense and almost new domain of dangerous insights.”36 With his gift for anticipating the future, Nietzsche anticipated the Psychology Revolution that Freud started, and Jung continued.

The Psychology Revolution has had a profound impact on our worldview — far more profound than the Darwinian Revolution — and the Psychology Revolution is still in progress. The Psychology Revolution presents today’s philosophers with an opportunity and a challenge; never before has philosophy had such a vast field to explore, such a vast crop to harvest, such a vast amount of knowledge to assimilate. In the 20th century, many thinkers reacted to the Psychology Revolution by ignoring it: “The unconscious doesn’t concern me,” they said; “I will have nothing to do with Freud or Jung.” Perhaps these thinkers sensed that the Psychology Revolution would shatter their worldview, perhaps they sensed that a lifetime of study was required to grasp Freud and Jung and their disciples. As Nietzsche said of psychology, “There are in fact a hundred good reasons why everyone should keep away from it who — can.”

Freud is difficult to grasp, but he throws a bright light on human nature, and on the humanities. Jung is even more difficult to grasp, but he throws an even brighter light on human nature, and on the humanities. Jung points the way to wholeness and spiritual growth, hence he’s more popular with laymen than Freud.

Jung views marriage as an attempt to reach wholeness; he views something that is apparently sexual (namely, marriage) from a spiritual perspective. Freud does the opposite; he views things that appear to be non-sexual from a sexual perspective. Jung extends the domain of spirituality and religion, while Freud extends the domain of sexuality. Though Jung was critical of Freud’s approach, he was wise enough to realize that future thinkers would draw upon both Freud and himself.37

A friend once wrote to me,

The problem with what I’ve read from Jung and Freud is that their theories seem to exist in a vacuum. They make very powerful reading sometimes, but in the end I am left with the feeling of having briefly shared someone’s ungrounded, subjective experience.

Perhaps this is why academia usually ignores Freud and Jung; academia prefers rigorous arguments to profound ideas, academia loves statistics, numbers. But if you have a penchant for introspection, for exploring inner worlds, you’ll find that Freud and Jung speak to your own experience, and you’ll find that their arguments can be buttressed by your own experience. And if you have a penchant for literature and philosophy, you’ll find that Freud and Jung throw light on those subjects, and strengthen their arguments with evidence drawn from those subjects.

Three of the chief issues in psychology are:

  1. What is evil? Is evil in every human being? Is it something active and forceful, or merely a lack of good (privatio boni)? Is evil relative and subjective, or is it absolute and universal? Can we define evil as turning against life, and allying oneself with death and destruction? Can we define good as accepting life, embracing life?
  2. How do we reach wholeness and harmony? How can a professional therapist foster one’s spiritual growth? What can an individual do to foster his own growth?
  3. How can we explain occult phenomena? Is there any limit to the power of the psyche? Is there any part of us that can survive after death?

“Psychology is now again the path to the fundamental problems.” Are we finally ready to explore this “immense and almost new domain”? Are we finally ready to explore ourselves?

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1. On Goethe, see Eckermann, Conversations With Goethe, 10/7/27; on Mann, see Richard Winston, Thomas Mann: The Making of an Artist, 1875-1911, ch. 16; on Wilde, see Richard Ellman, Oscar Wilde, ch. 19; on Mussolini, see Emil Ludwig, Talks With Mussolini, V, 1. Henry IV (King of France) and Hitler also had presentiments of danger before attempts on their lives (see Voltaire, General History, ch. 144, footnote, and Toland, Hitler, XXVIII, 5 and XXI, 3). back
2. An Autobiographical Study, 5 back
3. On Freud, see “A Childhood Recollection from Dichtung und Wahrheit”; on Adler, see The Practice and Theory of Individual Psychology, §26. back
4. See Anatole France, The Crime of Sylvester Bonnard, “The Little Saint-George,” 4/17, and Tolstoy, War and Peace, XIV, 12. back
5. The Sound and the Fury, “June Second, 1910” back
6. The Wheel of Fire, ch. 15, #2 back
7. III, ii, 4 back
8. D. T. Suzuki, “Buddhist, Especially Zen, Contributions to Japanese Culture” (from Essays in Zen Buddhism, third series) back
9. In Chinese, they say “looking for trouble for yourself” (zi4 zhao3 ma2 fan). Does every language have an equivalent of “looking for trouble”? back
10. Shadow and Evil in Fairy Tales, by Marie-Louise von Franz, Part II, ch. 2 back
11. Ibid back
12. Within a Budding Grove, “Place-Names: The Place” back
13. Henri Troyat, Tolstoy, §18. The Koestler quote is from Arrow in the Blue, Ch. 26. back
14. G. Wilson Knight, The Crown of Life: Essays in Interpretation of Shakespeare’s Final Plays, ch. 1, v back
15. See Flaubert, Letters, 12/27/52 (selected by R. Rumbold, London, 1950); Gide, If It Die, I, 8; H. G. Wells, An Experiment In Autobiography, IV, 3. back
16. The Grail Legend, ch. 3, p. 57 back
17. On Hume, see Desmond Morris, The Book of Ages, 18; on Napoleon, see Las Cases, Memorial of St. Helena, 8/15. back
18. Aion (Collected Works, v. 9, part II), par. 45-47 back
19. On Jung, see his Collected Works, vol. 16, §5; on Dostoyevsky, see his The Adolescent, I, iii, 3 (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1972, trans. A. MacAndrew); on Descartes, see “The Dreams of Descartes,” by L. Feuer, American Imago, spring, 1963. back
20. See The Adolescent, I, v, 4 and I, iii, 4. back
21. The Darkening Glass: A Portrait of Ruskin’s Genius, by John Rosen¬berg, ch. 9 back
22. Part III, “Of the Vision and the Riddle,” #2 back
23. Symbols of Transformation, Part II, ch. 7, par. 587 back
24. Young, Travels in France and Italy, entry for Nov. 4, 1789; Dostoyevsky, Winter Notes on Summer Impressions, ch. 5; Stendhal, Memoirs of an Egoist, chapters 6 and 7; Joyce, Dubliners, “Clay”; Walden, “Visitors” back
25. Matthew, 12:50 back
26. Fustel De Coulanges, The Ancient City, II, 3 back
27. Max Weber, The Religion of China: Confucianism and Taoism, III back
28. ibid, VIII back
29. New York Times, 9/28/03 back
30. “Further Recommendations in the Technique of Psychoanalysis: Observations on Transference-Love” (1915). See also “The Dynamics of the Transference” (1912). back
31. The process of transferring feelings and then bringing them back into oneself can be compared to the process of attachment and detachment that we discussed in Chapter 7, #32 (“Proust and Detachment”). back
32. “Dostoyevsky and Parricide” (1928) back
33. Lectures on Jung’s Typology: The Feeling Function, ch. 7 back
34. C. G. Jung Speaking: Interviews and Encounters, “1952” back
35. Memories, Dreams, Reflections, ch. 12 back
36. Beyond Good and Evil, §23 back
37. C. G. Jung Speaking: Interviews and Encounters, “1955” back