Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Is Jung's Red Book True as a Work of Art?

The following is an excerpt from Wolfgang Giegerich's book The Flight into the Unconscious (pp. 279-282):

About Blake's productions Jung remarked critically, "they are an artistic production rather than an authentic representation [i.e., a mere documentation or “report about..."] of unconscious processes" (Letters 2, pp. 513-4). This tells us that for Jung the art making process distorts that true authenticity which for him resides only in the immediacy of the original experience itself (Urerfahrung, Urerlebnis; "the most immediate experience" [CW11 S 396]). The ground of the truth and authenticity of a vision is kept external to its representation, such as in the Red Book, by being declared to have been an experience as factual event, "There was nothing of conscious structure in these fantasies, they were just events that happened" (Analytical Psychology 97). Happenings! The positivity of "events and experiences" (MDR 182)! The facticity of their occurrence!

But all art is of "conscious structure" through and through, otherwise dogs would be able to appreciate a statue or painting as art rather than as a mere thing. Fantasies, if they are consciously released into their fantasy character and not deliberately construed as reports about factual events, are in themselves thoroughly illumined, as artwork events of consciousness.

As we already heard, Jung insisted, concerning his fantasy material: "No, it is not art! On the contrary, it is nature" (MDR 186). This is, by the way, diametrically opposed to the thinking of the alchemists, for whom quod natura relinquit imperfectum ars perficit. According to this view, truth can only come about through the human processing of what is naturally given as mere raw material, as factual prima materia. Truth is the end-product of a long opus contra naturam. What is naturally given is ipso facto precisely not (yet) true. Art creates its own originas and within the work of art. But Jung wants to identify truth with factual existence, as if it were a piece of nature: "An elephant is true because it exists" (CW 11 S 5). Ultimately Jung's concept of psychic truth boils down to sheer overwhelmingness, brutal power: “the overpowering force of the original experiences" (360), "quite simply experiences" (365a), "The unshakeableness of the experience"(338b). Jung is here a positivist and, in a sense, existentialist. His truth has nothing to do any more with truth in its authentic sense. 

Jung is here committed to a logic of externality and otherness. For him, the Red Book as an object has its truth, origin, and reality in itself, but fundamentally outside of itself, in the literal experience that gave rise to it. Because the event of the overwhelming experience is what really counts, he could not radically release the fantasy substance itself of his experience into its own, into logically beine fantasy, having the form of fantasy, being art (or, another possibility being philosophy or Dichtung). He needed to emphatically reject the notion of art for his Red Book because what he wanted to cling to and preserve at all cost was the so-called "original" experience external to and underlying the Red Book: the experience which for him was supposed to be the sole locus of truth and authenticity. Unthinkable that he could have released the substance of his experiences from the facticity of the experiences as well as from himself as the subject who had such experience into the negativity of the form of fantasy. Rather than à corps perdu plunging into the fantasy world as fantasy world and thus as a mental, conscious reality, as speculation, that is, rather than relentlessly releasing his experience, and himself going under, into “the soul,” his whole project was precisely to extract from the fantasy the positivity of a literal external cause of it--ultimately "the primal world of the unconscious" (MDR 200) and posit it as its a priori. "The unconscious" is the objectified, literalized, externalized--and thus killed--soul: "the soul" by definition deprived of its "being of conscious structure" or its being thought.

The clinging to the factual event of one's experience over against the fantasy character of what has been experienced is at the same time the self-preservation (or initial self-institution) of the ego (the structure or definition of the subject as "the ego" in the sense of personalistic psychology). The I is not willing to let go of itself and go under into its fantasies, so that they might be released into their inherent truth. This is why Jung described this period of his life (his) "Confrontation with the Unconscious," focusing, rather than on the work to be produced, on the crisis he had to go through an on his tormenting doubts as to his own sanity. And it is why he tried to substitute for the suggestion that what he was doing was an following theory about the telos of the process: "Perhaps my unconscious is forming a personality that is not I" (199b). This is already in nuce the dogma of Jung's psychologistic “personality cult,” as one might term it. He circled around himself (which might, be contrasted with mental-illness-plagued van Gogh's dedication to his painting). The creative impulse, which without doubt was at work in Jung, was diverted from its own direction towards the production of truth (in works of art, literature, philosophy, music), i.e., towards soul-making, and abused for egoic purposes (self-development). The truth is not allowed to come home to itself, but is forced down into the human being as (a new) literal personality.

Cause and telos are in Jung's scheme dissociated and set up as literal and external (past event or future entity, respectively). Art, poetry, philosophical thought (in other words, soul), by contrast, would be what is in between those two: presence, because owing to the absolute-negative interiorization of the experienced fantasy into itself, into its truth, into its own internal ground and archê, it contains both its cause and its telos only within its absolute negativity.

Because the Red Book has the mystery and truth that it is about, fundamentally outside itself in Jung's factual "original experience, on the one hand, and in the "new personality" to be formed in the positively existing civil man Jung, on the other hand, it is really an unwritten book. In Plato scholarship one distinguishes between Plato's exoteric written dialogues made available to the general public and his "unwritten doctrine" (agrapha dogmata) made known only orally to the esoteric inner circle of his disciples. Jung's book is esoteric in a much more radical, namely absolute, sense. Plato logically fully released his unwritten doctrine out into the open, and thus logically "published" it, even if only orally to select disciples; he could do so because he obviously had relentlessly abandoned himself to the inner truth of his thought experience. Potentially he could therefore also have written down his agrapha dogmata. But Jung’s Red Book is the paradox of his “written unwritten (and on principle unwriteable) truth”: literally, factually written, but logically unwritten. It merely points to the mystery that is per definitionem solely his mystery and not ours. "The myth commences, the one that can only be lived, not sung, the one that sings itself" (286, tr.m.), we read at one point in the Red Book. The authentic locus of his truth is now the positivity of Existenz, real life: "first and exclusively and solely in one's own person" (CW 7, p. 5, re.m.), in man whose nature is now no longer comprehended as his theoretical I (classical metaphysics) or his poietic soul (Nietzsche) but as what Heidegger would later term his mere Dasein.

Just as the authentic locus of the Christian truth is not the church as cathedral, bur the human heart, so the authentic place of Jung’s truth is not the Red Book, which, as we know, he considered his church, his cathedral. His truth has its authenticity only in the factual events of his "immediate experiences” themselves.

Jung’s paintings and calligraphy are only secondary illustrations for the external purpose of satisfying his wish to show his subjective esteem. If they were art, they would shine from within themselves. The historistic imitation of a medieval illuminated book is the telltale sign that what the Red Book contains has its worth not in itself, but only in the feeling of the man C.G. Jung. "I always knew that these experiences contained something precious, and therefore I knew of nothing better than to write them down in a precious,' that is to say, costly book and to paint the images that emerged through reliving it all ..." (360). Decoration. Ego work. It had to be ego work because the fantasy had not been released into its truth, into the form of truth. Which is why its truth could not shine forth from it of its own accord. And the fact that the calligraphy and, to a lesser degree, the paintings imitate medieval forms of expression clearly reveals that the visual aspect of the Red Book is not the self-expression, i.e., not the intrinsic form, of the material presented itself. Superimposed. An accessory. Inauthentic. Thus Jung's cited critique of Blake ("an artistic production rather than an authentic representation of unconscious processes") reflects upon his own production, if we understand it in a different sense from his. (This is quite apart from the fact that the idea of an authentic representation of unconscious processes is in itself fallacious. Authenticity is never the gift of the unconscious processes themselves. of raw natural events, which inevitably come in the state of imperfection and inauthenticity. If at all, authenticity can only be the produced result of the artist's or adept's ars).

The Red Book has meanwhile been published. But published only the way art works can nowadays be technically reproduced. We can never get behind the reproduction to the “original"--because Jung's own volume is in itself not, and was not supposed to be the original. Dante's Divina Commedia, by contrast, does not need a costly leather binding. Even if it comes to us in a wretched, cheaply printed paperback copy we have nevertheless the original: because as art and philosophical thought it has its illumining and heart-warming truth absolute-negatively within itself, a truth that freely communicates itself to anybody capable and willing to abandon himself to it. It is everybody’s mystery, not only Dante’s.

Saturday, December 02, 2017

On the Evidence for Naturally Occurring Global Temperature Cycles

Over the past four years, I have gone from protesting human-caused global warming at the “Forward on Climate” Rally in Washington, D.C. to my current state of seriously doubting that humans play more than a marginal role in the Earth’s climate.

I have only chosen to write about this my views now because I have found multiple confirmations of climate predictions made by AGW skeptic David Dilley and discovery of the cycles of the Primary Forcing Mechanism that drive climate change globally.  There are two specific predictions in the last year that I find quite impressive.

  1. Dilley’s prediction in February, going against the mainstream academic researchers, that 2017’s hurricane season will be especially harsh.
    The newspaper where Dilley lives wrote the following about his system:
    “Dilley developed a computer model concept, which he touts as a one-of-a-kind long-range forecasting tool. It relies on weather cycles. The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration uses several short-term weather cycle-type oscillation models — as well as La Nina or El Nino influences — to forecast six months to a year into the future. NOAA does not use weather cycle data to predict hurricanes four years out.” -

  1. And then quite recently, I came across a blog post Dilley wrote in 2008, stating “about the year 2017 there will be another warming.” Again, this was not predicted by mainstream research organizations, which thought “the tapering off of an El Niño period... would hold down global heat levels.”

Given Dilley’s record of success in predicting weather events, I am somewhat surprised his work, freely available on his website since 2007, has not received mainstream attention.

Before discovering Dilley’s work, there are three main sources that progressively strengthened my skepticism regarding human caused climate change.

The first time I began to take climate skepticism seriously was in reading The Scientist as Rebel, a book by distinguished Princeton physicist Freeman Dyson. Dyson, who is quite liberal on most issues, claims there is no firm scientific evidence that increased carbon levels in the upper atmosphere and oceans will cause the climate crises that many other scientists forecast.

Dyson points out that the dire predictions about global warming are based on largely unproven computer simulations. Scientific truth is defined by proven experiment. I see an analogy here between the housing-market computer models used by bankers before the 2007 crash, and agree with Dyson that the scientific community needs to be wary about accepting long-term predictions of recently-developed computer models as equivalent to the results of orthodox laboratory experiments.

I find it too much to believe a scientist with as distinguished a career as Dyson would sacrificed his legacy for a corporate bribe, no matter how much he was offered. This significantly increased my openness to future arguments on the issue.

Despite Stefan Molyneux's Alt-Lite apologetics for the Alt-right, I’m including his video detailing his own experience writing code for computer climate models. Molyneux details the failure to hold climate computer models to any sort of falsifiable standard, and the resulting politicization of the climate research field. At the time, Molyneux had yet to stray into far-right apologetics, and his conviction on the issue was quite influential for me.

Soon after hearing Molyneux’s take, I found the work of Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore, who has been perhaps the most powerful and ruthless critic of climate alarmists, testifying before Congress, and later partnering with the conservative propaganda outlet Prager University [not a university] to make this useful overview, on the problems surrounding the idea of human caused climate change.

Discovering David Dilley’s work was the the real turning point for me. Only Dilley provides a scientific alternative to the mainstream, and the more I’ve thought about his proposals, freely available here, the more convinced I’ve become. At the risk of losing credibility for a hometown bias, I will also link to UA-Huntsville professor Roy Spencer’s website, as the discrepancy between surface temperature readings and Satellite temperature readings is an issue climate science should address.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Is it better to be bad than unlucky?

The phrase “better to be lucky than good” implies a logical contradiction, because how can something be better than goodness? The fact that we take the phrase as syllogistic truth today is a testament to the divided (pathological?) nature of today’s cultural consciousness.

It’s only in the past 70 years--since the development of modern warfare--that humanity has come to accept that the very core of our identities--our careers, how long we will live, whether or not we become rich, whether or not we live a long life--may be determined by random occurrences. Unlike many centuries-old sayings and common phrases, the phrase “better to be lucky than good” is only 75 years old. Before then, luck was a play thing--a part of children’s games and nothing more. They did not separate events from consciousness like the modern philosophy of “randomness” does.

Though I fully accept the validity of theoretical physics notion of quantum indeterminacy--that "randomness" is built into the fabric of things--I think it's dangerous for us to extend this to human experience. Randomness is fine for analyzing past events or predicting future ones, but the present moment is the domain of consciousness.

The word “random” comes from the Old English word “rinnan” which describes how river water runs and flows. Over the course of the last 800 years, the word has come to mean the opposite of the total connectedness of its original meaning “to flow”.

The flow of human consciousness excludes that possibility of randomness. The act of asserting consciousness creates a feedback loop that extends and projects more consciousness. To attribute the events of the present to “randomness” is to cut off that feedback loop from its power source.

Consciousness is nothing more, nothing less than the entirety of civil society taken as a whole. Consciousness is empathy for our fellow beings. Consciousness is the anticipation that the future holds unpredictable joys. Seeing the world through the lens of randomness excludes these emotions.

The present moment is not a simulation (despite what Elon Musk thinks!) What happens in this present moment is all that we have got. Computers have catapulted the idea of randomness to the front of our cultural consciousness. But right here, right now, there is no reset button. To call what happens in the present moment “random” is to turn off consciousness.

To confuse the randomness of computer programs and simulations with an essential part of reality is to turn away from consciousness. We need to spend more time facing the other direction.

Friday, July 14, 2017

On the Social Construction of Race and Gender

On the left today, we often hear about how race and gender are “social constructs”.  But what does this mean, and why do we on the left believe it is important?

There is a lot of confusion, even among academics, about what this means.

Experience can be categorized into the physical, the biological, and the mental. To say something is a “social construct” is simply to say that it exists on the mental level. (Marx referred to these levels as the “base and super-structure”).

Levels of existence
How do humans experience them?
The fact of our physical existence
How our organs, bones, and muscles works
Experience, thoughts, memories, emotions
What else has this existence?
Rocks, non-living molecules, water, fire, air
plants, amoeba
Social animals

Many academics argue against the primacy of social constructs in determining human behavior, claiming that “behaviour is a complex outcome of both biological and cultural influences.” (Wikpedia) This criticism is the same as arguing that “the laws of geometry are essential to understanding genetics.” Anyone who can comprehend a Punnett Square can tell you, “no, they are not!”  

Academia treats geometry and genetics as completely separate disciplines in separate departments, and yet some academics refuse to acknowledge that sociology and biology share just as big a gap.

Human social behaviors are best understood as socially constructed.

Claiming that genes determine behavior (the “resilience gene” or the “warrior gene”) is not very useful, because the process of how social behaviors is better analyzed from the social level.  Genetics is useful for analyzing biological features, such as handedness or eye-color. It is not useful to say genetics causes social behaviors, any more than it is to claim the laws of geometry “cause” biological evolution, or that Annie Oakley “caused” WWI (by not killing Kaiser Wilhelm decades before the war when he asked her to shoot the ash off of his cigar.) There is simply too large a gap between genetics and society for this type of analysis to be useful.

I like this blogger’s description of the social construction of gender:
“Gender is a construct of identity and language, as the ability to think and express a gender identity is essential to claiming one (rather than having one thrust upon you, as many do upon seeing a baby’s genitals). It’s not until children become verbal that they begin to process and sort out what they understand gender to be, as they try to map language to the world they see. Since our society so strongly prefers a binary understanding of gender that maps onto genitals, it simplifies things and collapses gender and sex into one thing.”
Capitalism is quite good at taking social constructs and manipulating them for its purposes. For example, capitalism relegated to women the unwaged work of social reproduction--socializing and preparing the next generation of workers.

Capitalism also, terribly, led white slave owners traders in the mid to late 17th century to create new legal categories of race in order to keep workers divided, and, later, to provide a moral justification for the funding of further imperialism through the rapid accumulation of capital on the backs of slave labor.

Race is an arbitrary legal categorization based on a superficial biological marker (skin color), which does not correspond closely to the genetic similarity of different individuals (i.e. a Chinese person will often have greater genetic similarity to an African than to many of the other Chinese from his or her hometown!).  

The following is some thoughts on religion, and my belief about its role in how social constructs were first formed.

The purpose of religion is to transform the biological into the mental. “Religion” comes from the Latin “religare” meaning “to bind.” As ominous as this sounds, I believe that religion is an innate human impulse, the whole point of which is to remember good experiences--to “bind” the memory of the experience to the mind through the creation of new descriptive language. Religion, thus, brought humans into a new type of existence--mental existence.

Originally, gender, I believe, is an example of this religious impulse to bring mental life into the biological experience of being human.

Today, though, through the process of cisgender normalization, gender sadly has come to play an opposite role. Rigid, bourgeois-prescribed gender norms take mental life out of our experiences. Free thinking is shut down by the ritualized shaming and assaulting of non-cisgender-conforming people.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Private Meditation as a Revolutionary Act

For Nietzsche, beauty is NOT primarily transcendent. Beauty is the difficult marriage of the transcendent with the immanent.

Unfortunately, our society has not heeded his advice. We have only accelerated the patriarchal addiction to transcendence, which, due to market competition for funding, has spread to every field. The easiest, and therefore best economic strategy, to receive funding is to dazzle the customer/donor/viewer.

Private meditation is dangerous to the whole idea.

The first commandment of American economic life is 'thou shalt appear constantly busy.' Even when there is nothing to do, we are strongly pressured to maintain an appearance of activity to others, or risk being labelled as "no fun" or depressed. To disrupt the appearance of activity is to call into question the premise on which our entire economic structure is based: our insatiable addiction to be dazzled by new products and consumer experiences. To say “no” to transcendence in this regard, even for a moment to desire balance instead, is outright rebellion.

Industry brings Meditation into relatively public group settings so that it, too, becomes a choice for consumption, becomes yet another stage where our addiction to transcendence can repeat its performance.

Rather than seeing our societal addiction as needing more rules, more techniques so that it can be controlled, imagine addiction as a frustrated passion frantically seeking a new mode of expression. That gives me hope.

This post is a slightly altered combination of a couple posts 2 years ago.