Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Accessing C. G. Jung 5. Jungian novels and other influences

Matthias Stom, fl. 1615 - 1649
Young man reading at candlelight
No work by Jung captured the public imagination as much as Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle. Mind you, the principle was little understood and most saw it as little more than "meaningful coincidence", and that could (and was) easily dismissed by the skeptic. Perhaps this misunderstanding was a psychic defence -- the idea that thoughts can suddenly play out in the physical world seems like something from the realms of magic -- but skeptics have a tendency to be extraverts and, by definition, do not like to look inward.

Synchronicity is where part of the unconscious is stimulated, and then a corresponding reality suddenly occurs. But it is just part of a much wider phenomenon because the unconscious can also be contacted in other ways. Jung used  techniques of active imagination with his patients. The poet, too, can frequently contact the unconscious -- Carrie was surprised when I showed her a number of important elements from Celtic mythology and iconography that were appearing in her poetry, as she had little contact with anything Celtic before she met me. She then started to look at early Welsh poetry. Later, she built the first online Celtic Coin Index.

I was about twenty five years old when I first read The Glass Bead Game: (Magister Ludi) by Hermann Hesse. I did not know that its author had both known and had been strongly influenced by Jung. I knew very little of Jung at that time -- only that he was a psychologist. The book gave me the strongest feeling that I now knew the secrets of the universe, but I could not put my finger on them, it was if some sort of veil was in the way. Of course, the work had touched my unconscious -- but I had no knowledge of the unconscious, It was all symptoms and no answers! Next, I read Demian: The Story of Emil Sinclair's Youth, the very first of Hesse's Jungian novels -- but I did not know that. I continued to read Hesse, of course.

Time passed, and one afternoon I was working at Crown Surplus. It was a typical afternoon, I was filling some orders for Sten gun parts to go to the U.S. They had been "demilitarized", of course -- the breech blocks were always bought in pairs: one with a weld cut at the front, the other at the rear. While I was working, I was chatting with a customer about Chinese porcelain. A man was standing nearby looking at me intently. He looked a bit like a pirate, swarthy, with black hair, beard and moustache and very tough-looking. Instead of a pirate's cutlass, he wore a large "Crocodile Dundee" knife on his belt. He seemed out of place in the twentieth century. When I had finished with the orders and chatting with the customer, he introduced himself as "Bill", and said that he, too, collected Chinese porcelain. We soon became good friends. He was Professor William G. Blackburn, and he taught Shakespeare, science fiction and children's literature. He was also an expert in 16th. century magic, a swordsman (épée), and a black belt in Taekwondo. He had worked, once, as a bodyguard for the children of a Sultan. He introduced me to the works of Joseph Campbell. He seemed to have modelled his life on Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton KCMG FRGS (19 March 1821 – 20 October 1890) and once gave me a copy of Fawn Brodie's The Devil Drives: A Life of Sir Richard Burton, which I have to this day. He got his Master's from McGill and his doctorate from Yale. I was looking after his house and his dog "Pizzle" once, while he was taking a vacation -- a strange (Shakespearean) name for a female dog. He claimed that she knew more about Shakespeare than many of his students, as she attended all of his lectures. He came home in a black mood: his marriage had come to an end. We sat and drank whisky for a few hours. Perhaps it was just that, and the loss of the custody of his children, but Bill went into a gradual decline afterwards. I think that he also developed a severe medical problem, and after losing contact with him many years later, I heard that he had died while teaching in Thailand. Bill was unappreciated by many of his more conservative students, and he did not suffer fools gladly, but he was a major influence in my life -- one of my closest friends, and I will never forget him.

Carrie had attended the same university where Bill taught, and knew of him, but she got to know him better and he sometimes came to the house to visit. I met Carrie through an ex-student of hers, Scott McClelland. She once wrote a poem about him: The Magician after Hours Scott and I had both acted in a strange combination of  audience participation theatre and a "side-show" haunted house called "The Black Castle". It was the brain-child of Charles Porlier, but does not appear on his CV. Carrie introduced me to the works of my second Jungian novelist, Robertson Davies, and, in particular, his greatest work: The Deptford Trilogy, which, unlike Hesse, is not coy about being a Jungian work. Scott reminds me a bit -- in spirit-- of a magician that is part of the subject of the last book in the trilogy: Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin. Of course, by that time, I was a Jungian mythologist, myself -- Thanks to Bill and Joseph Campbell. The influences continue -- Basarab Nicolescu (Manifesto of Transdisciplinarity (Suny Series in Western Esoteric Traditions) , was a follower of Wolfgang Pauli.

It is said that life imitates art. I have found that to be very true.

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