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Reply To: The Child of Symbolic Disguise,” with Norland Téllez, Ph.D.”

Robert Juliano

mythistorian – Some comments on your response.

We really need to put this notion of ‘partiality’ under a microscope here. It certainly goes without saying that one’s views are informed and sometimes shaped by certain individuals whose words reach deeply inside them. Perfectly perspectiveless objectivity is achieved only in extreme cases (e.g., perfect enlightenment). Having said that, one can also be deeply aware of that which informs their view, so much so that such views are held as provisional – the best they have at a given moment – instead of as absolute. But, and this is critical, one can have experiences in one’s own life that they see as supporting or even confirming a given position. In this latter case, they have earned possession of a given idea for themselves. Then there is the issue of a given idea being adopted by an individual because it is the product of multidisciplinary scholarship – that the idea is supported by multiple disciplines, multiple paradigms, multiple life experiences in different cultures. In general, there is immense complexity relating a person’s view and what grounds that view for that person. Crucially, the claim of “partiality” completely collapses that wonderful and vibrant complexity into a particular cause or explanation (e.g., partiality to person A or theory B) which is both comparatively mundane and unidimensional. This greatly insults certain interlocutors such as myself whose views have not at all been easy to achieve and cannot so easily be collapsed. I really don’t understand why the lens of partiality and seeing things as theorist A vs. theorist B holds such sway with you. For at least 30 years, my approach to any given topic or idea has been multi-paradigmatic – to see a given notion from the perspectives of multiple paradigms and, in doing so, become aware of where they agree and where they disagree, and truly appreciate their similarities and differences. And, to be clear, I do not always advocate synthesis. Sometimes synthesis is helpful, sometimes synthesis is exceedingly destructive.

Now, with respect to Joseph Campbell’s relationship with Jung’s work, such a relationship is very complex. The book I recommended, Dr. Ritske Rensma’s The Innateness of Myth: A New Interpretation of Joseph Campbell’s Reception of C.G. Jung captures this quite well, and he does so by outlining three phases of the relationship. Campbell’s 1949 work was written and published during phase one where Freud and Jung had equal standing in Campbell’s eyes. But, based on my reading of Campbell, my experience in carefully exploring the Joseph Campbell Library numerous times even before attending PGI, and my having read his work over the last 30+ years and listened to the available audio of his lectures and presentations, my sense is that in 1949, Campbell was exhibiting scholarly restraint to all of the scholars he referenced in his book. Just look at footnote 18 where Campbell discusses archetypal images. Jung’s perspective is certainly represented, but his is but one of many which also includes that of Freud, Bastian, Boas, and Frazier. Campbell furthermore makes sure to explain that the word ‘archetype’ was not Jung’s creation, but goes back to classical times. Thus, Campbell is being the proper disciplined responsible scholar here and avoids making a number of choices, some which he would make only after many years had passed.

With respect to the views of Freud and Jung, synthesis is far from being a goal for me. Much more important is clearly recognizing where they agree and where they disagree. But, careful reading of the Freud-Jung letters makes it clear to me that much of their disagreement remains misunderstood, that there is great depth and richness in their disagreements, and there is much yet to learn. One area of disagreement is the issue of a theory of child development. Dr. Michael Fordham who had worked with children for over half a century disagreed with Jung about whether children were undergoing individuation. Whereas Jung did not see a need to develop a theory of child development, Fordham did and his theory is heavily informed by Freud’s Psychoanalysis.

I think it is critical to recognize that there were those who preceded both Jung and Freud whose work was absolutely essential to depth psychology. For example, Dr. Pierre Janet who was working with the unconscious long before Freud and Jung and whose breakthroughs were subsequently incorporated into both Freud’s and Jung’s depth psychology, sometimes without attribution, needs to be remembered in his own right, not solely through the depth psychology traditions of Psychoanalysis and Analytical Psychology. Dr. Henri Ellenberger has an excellent chapter on Dr. Janet in his excellent work of scholarship The Discovery of the Unconscious: The History and Evolution of Dynamic Psychiatry. Freud and Jung certainly deserve immense credit and recognition, but in reading a fuller history which, in Dr. Ellenberger’s book, goes back to the 18th century, the work which came before Freud-Jung provides a much-needed balance to our perspective of the contributions made by these two men. Thus, for example, we see Charcot and Janet as being equally important pioneers on whose shoulders Freud and Jung stood.

One of the great contributions the recent publication of the Black Books makes is that they show, without any theoretical or conceptual reflection and without the terminology of depth psychology, one person’s sustained experience of the unconscious (1913-1932) and, especially, sustained dialogues with at least three critical figures there – the Emissary (Jung’s Soul), Philemon, and Ka. These books consist of the recording of raw, unprocessed experiences with no editing and exceedingly few corrections. Crucially, these books can be employed by the individual to develop alternative depth psychologies which can, through the lens of their own life experiences and background, result in different interpretations than the ones Jung made. There would be, then, no need to choose one view or the other because one would have walked their own path and made their own discoveries. This is really one of the essential messages of the Black Books, the kind of message which would have resonated deeply with Joseph Campbell (and Heinrich Zimmer) – that of the individual path (quest).

In my previous response, I mentioned Dr. Philip Kime who is an advocate of Giegerich’s work and whose careful and rigorous scholarship we can all learn from, made an exceptionally important statement in one of his recent interviews. He stressed the interdependence of form and content and noted that mathematics makes the complexity of this interdependence clear. As one who has a background in formal mathematics and in complexity science, I completely agree with this statement. Unless one has undergone such detailed study, it is very hard to appreciate the details involved in the way changes in form affects content and vice-versa. Such recognition of this interdependence is necessary in a responsible approach to the image. The image is just-so – its form embodies its content – change the form of the image, the content changes, and content is not independent of its form. Thus, there is immense justification for the extreme rigor Giegerich applies to the image. As I said earlier, I would like to see this pushed to its very limit in order to understand how far we can get. Now, Giegerich has recently published a book entitled Coniunctio: Reflexions on a key concept of C.G. Jungʼs psychology. Over the last several years, I have delved into medieval and early modern Latin alchemy and have some reasonable understanding of Jung’s perspective. Based on the works of scholars of the history of science, I think Jung greatly underestimates the usefulness of alchemy. But, his hermeneutic is important and having read through works that point to the development of his hermeneutic (Black Books, Red Book, The Art of C. G. Jung, description of his alchemical notebooks, etc.), I can see how his hermeneutic was formed organically from his life experiences. Thus, it will be an important study to contrast Giegerich’s approach to the immensely complex image of the coniunctio with Jung’s, his latest views on which were greatly informed by the 16th century alchemist Gerhard Dorn.

I agree that there are strong reactions to Giegerich’s work at PGI because I have seen evidence of that myself when I was there, both in the students and by faculty. One notable faculty member who engages most seriously with Giegerich’s work is Dr. Susan Rowland who assigns his papers in her classes with great regularity. But, I think that emotional reactions about Giegerich indicate something much deeper about one’s own relationship with the material of depth psychology. For me, I was initially ambivalent – the rational/mathematical side of me was intrigued whereas the feeling side felt a bit bruised and defensive. It was, therefore, critical that I used that to analyze my own relationship with the material. That was precisely what made it such an excellent context to study for written comprehensive examinations and precisely why I did so.

My concern about the notion of absolute truth is informed by a number of different perspectives – my experience in working with limitations (in mathematics, computer science, and quantum physics), Madhyamaka philosophy, Jung’s Psychological Types (CW 6), and the figures of the unconscious described in the Black Books which point to the lack of absolute truth or at least its attainability through human eyes. Add to that my experience in working with the 19th century mathematician Georg Cantor and his levels of infinity where he discovered that while mathematics could reach certain levels of infinity, there were levels of infinity beyond which mathematics could not reach – where its results ended in contradiction. But, I think it is wrong to consider the Madhymaka philosophers’ approach to be just of the East. I think it is also applicable to the West. In debate, the Madhymaka philosopher would never make an assertion – this they left to their opponent. Then, through their opponent’s assertion, definitions, and system of reasoning, through debate, the Madhymaka philosopher would lead their opponent to contradict their own original assertion. We see elements of this in deconstructionist philosophy and even in the proof of limitations of mathematics/computibility I mentioned in my previous response.

But, something which does come from the East which I greatly appreciate is a pragmatic way of viewing that which we hold to be truths. In Buddhism, there is the notion of the two truths – the relative truths of everyday life and the ultimate truth of emptiness. Crucially, the masters tell us that it is only through the relative truths that one can achieve the ultimate truth. This seems to me to be quite a pragmatic way of relating to truths. Truths are so until they are not or until they are no longer useful. They get one where they need to go. In the process, this sometimes requires the individual to adopt certain other truths which are more conducive to their new condition. I developed this notion for myself years ago when considering a multi-paradigm approach. Dr. Thomas Kuhn’s work The Structure of Scientific Revolutions inspired me to look at paradigms pragmatically – to see that they are useful until they are not, and that it is exceedingly dangerous to identify oneself with a given paradigm. As a person who is very much interested in the history of science as it pertains to the development of quantum physics, I was strongly affected when I read that there were physicists who committed suicide because they felt the floor disappear from under them as they tried to navigate through the startling implications of the emerging paradigm of quantum physics. I find all of those who suffered yet persevered through the mystery of quantum physics to have been very courageous and inspirational!