Sir Francis Bacon

Histories make men wise; poets, witty; the mathematics, subtle; natural philosophy, deep; moral, grave; logic and rhetoric, able to contend.

--Of Studies--

Humans and their Symbols

~ 500 words

acerbic - adj - of sour or astringent taste/severe temper.

vivisect - v - to dissect the living body of an animal.

codicil - n - an addition, appendix, post script, or afterthought.

Carl Gustav Jung, an influential early 20th century psychologist, came up with a number of interesting theories, some of which have been misinterpreted and misrepresented over the years. I find it informative in such instances to go back to the source (as my regular readers are no doubt aware).

To set the tone for this post, I'd like to share a quote from Jung's 1948 essay "On Psychic Energy"

"We must always bear in mind that despite the most beautiful agreement between the facts and our ideas, explanatory principals are only points of view, that is, manifestations of the psychological attitude and of the a priori conditions under which all thinking takes place"

Man and His Symbols (aka Mankind, aka Humankind) serves as a magnificent compendium of his life's work, though he didn't live long enough to see the volume compiled.  The book is comprised of five sections, the first written by Jung, and the remaining four written by his closest colleagues (those he trusted to accurately relate his theory of psychology). These topics range through discussions of the nature of the unconscious mind, the importance of myth and symbol, the process of achieving psychological maturity, symbolism in the visual arts, and a case study.

Despite being written by five people, the book is unified by the importance of symbology.  There is an enormous gulf between the subconscious of Freud and the unconscious of Jung.  To quote Jung,

"The ideas of Sigmund Freud confirmed for most people the existing contempt for the psyche.  Before him it had been merely overlooked and neglected; it has now become a dump for moral refuse.

This modern standpoint is surely one-sided and unjust.  It does not even accord with the known facts.  Our actual knowledge of the unconscious shows that it is a natural phenomenon and that, like Nature herself, it is at least neutral.  It contains all the aspects of human nature--light and dark, beautiful and ugly, good and evil, profound and silly.  The study of individual, as well as of collective, symbolism is an enormous task, and one that has not yet been mastered.  But a beginning has been made at last.  The early results are encouraging, and they seem to indicate an answer to many so far unanswered questions of present-day mankind."

It's the sort of book that, once you start quoting, it's hard to cut him off.  That by the way is the last bit of Jung's own section.  

Anyway, very interesting read.  Very accessible, too, which is not commonly said of books of psychological theory.  Worth a look for anyone interested in myth, symbolism, dream interpretation, or theories of mental functionality.

You can expect more posts on Jung.  I know I've said that before, but this time I mean it. 

Today's mildly disturbing graphic is the middle of "The Spirit of Geometry" by René Magritte (1937).  Surrealists like Magritte are lauded in Man and his Symbols for their unparalleled combination of realism and dream-like symbology.  

Also, just as a side note, I have decided to stop contributing to Blogcritics for a couple of reasons:
1. They have "rules"
2. Their interface is a pain in the ass.
3. Their site is chock full of trolls and it's even more of a pain in the ass to get them to remove trollish comments.
4. I published an apparently decent article on The Brothers Karamazov with them and it has redirected all my traffic for that post away from my actual site.  They said posting with them would increase my site traffic, but they lied.  Not that I'm making any money off of you (I do this purely to slake my colossal ego), but I like my site better.  You get the pictures, you get my interesting words and quotations, and most of all you don't have to put up with me trying to sell you anything!  We can talk about books without commercial pressure and I rather like that (exceedingly uncommon these days).  Also, I like to see my counter go up.  Thanks guys!!!
4. I'm not sure I even like the idea of being a member of a sinister cabal of (self-evaluated) superior writers. 

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