Thursday, August 6, 2009

A Fondness for Carl G. Jung

At University, a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I had an American Literature teacher named Michael Hollister who came to exert a strong influence upon my worldview as a young man, not to mention my subsequent understanding of literature--its purpose, its meaning, its message. Professor Hollister took literature out of the self contained realm of mere story and into the transcendent, revealing the heart within the body, so to speak, parting the veil.

As a foundation for his teaching, an ultimate point of reference, he used the psychology of Carl G. Jung, the study of the unconscious mind, the archetype and the symbol, the idea that there exists a collective unconscious that can be tapped into in order to provide meaning through the understanding of imagery as old as mankind itself.

We read Jungian psychology right alongside American Literature, applying the one to the other, and then both toward a higher comprehension of life itself. I was so amazed, as a young man, that I had been apparently missing the meaning of most everything. I became a disciple. I read a lot of Jung and Jungians. I became, in my own small way, a Jungian.

In Jungian psychology dreams are of great importance. One makes a heroic effort at interpreting his dreams according to the symbology supposedly employed by the unconscious mind. What makes no sense at all ends up making all the sense in the world. Ostensibly.

I remember tying a string to a spiral notebook and hanging the notebook from my bedpost. In this way, as I imagined it, I could, upon awakening from a dream, quickly sketch down the details (using the pen conveniently tied to the notebook), and then in the morning be able to interpret the thing in a conscious manner, thereby unlocking precious secrets and taking one more step on the road to personal individuation.

I suppose that the trouble with this should have been predictable enough--because of course there is a difference between writing something down when one has some light and is actually awake, and writing something down in the dark upon a page he can barely see, bumbling about between one snore and the next. What I mean, in short, is that the potential profundities of my dreams remained pretty much perfectly obscure, the squiggles and chicken scratches upon the page being quite indecipherable in the morning.

In addition to this particular shortcoming was the fact that my own personal dream life seemed stubbornly immune to Jungian psychology. I had read about transcendently meaningful dreams of mythical beings and ancient fable, the fully explicable presence of beasts and reptiles, kings and queens, the sun and the moon, and yet proceeded myself to dream of a childlike polar bear who wanted to play hide and seek, a dog which turned into a duck, and other similarly ridiculous happenings, rather distant from the level of transcendence I had hoped to discover.

Ah, but Jung is harsh and uncompromising. One must face the message of ones soul, despising pride and ego. In the end I found no other honest answer, according to my research and efforts, than the revelation that I myself am a ridiculous person. A childish bear. A duck-like curr.

Still fond of Jung, I yet moved on, deciding it might be better (for my self-esteem anyway) to forge myths of my own. So it was that I entered my Jack London phase. Which is something about which I might someday say more.

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