JUNG’S BLACK BOOKS (1): An A-theological Treatise

Carl Jung’s BLACK BOOKS constitute an a-theological treatise (as in Bataille’s work), the protocols of a long, intense encounter and experimentation with the unconscious. They are the records of a private experience of collective import. These works are based on phenomenological observation and participation, they are not proposed as evidence of some ontotheological outside « reality ».

There is nothing more anti-Jungian than Peter Kingsley’s pretensions, in CATAFALQUE and elsewhere, to accessing ontological « Reality ».

Jung had gone through the Kantian turn, the Hegelian turn, the Nietzschean turn, the pragmatic turn BEFORE his confrontation with the unconscious. All these philosophical encounters were essential parts of Jung’s process of « unlearning » the metaphysics that interferes with a phenomenological approach to experience. https://terenceblake.wordpress.com/2019/12/27/peter-kingsleys-catafalque-1-a-contrary-review/

I say that Jung had gone through the « Hegelian turn », despite his often negative remarks on Hegel’s philosophical thought. In fact he seems to be little familiar with Hegel, and to rely mostly on reductive stereotypes of Hegel’s ideas, rather than a real encounter with his works.

However, Jung’s conscious or surface rejection of Hegel’s thought does not preclude a close unconscious proximity with Hegelian thought-processes, as Wolfgang Giegerich demonstrates quite clearly.

Jung was magna-erudite, but not omni-erudite, and the accepted interpretations of his work need to be broken.

Jung was an atheist. Standard Jungians know this, but they do not say it outright. Jung is like Richard Dawkins etc in that he does not believe in an external creator. Jung’s « God » is phenomenological, not theological, and he allows for many valid varieties of religious experience.

Freud was a naive atheist, a scientistic thinker. Like Richard Dawkins, he saw no place for God in the physical universe.

Jung was an atheist in this sense too, only he was more psychological (or existential), he saw « God » as the emergence of numinous events in the psychic process, so he wrote a « theogony ».

« From the notebooks of a self-experimentation, a psychological work in a literary and theogonic form was created » (Sonu Shamdasani, Introduction to The Black Books).

In this opposition between theology and theogony, one might say between ontotheology and cosmotheogony, we rejoin the distinction that Jung made between the two types of thinking (directed and fantasy) and between two types of unconscious:

  1. the familial neurotic unconscious of Freud
  2. the cosmogonic schizophrenic unconscious of Jung

Jung’s process of confrontation with the unconscious went further than Freud’s and than what he was able to confront in his relations with Freud, who was limited to the neurotic unconscious. Jung traversed the schizophrenic unconscious without being submerged, without going mad.

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16 commentaires pour JUNG’S BLACK BOOKS (1): An A-theological Treatise

  1. Ping : JUNG’S BLACK BOOKS (1): An A-theological Treatise – The Philosophical Hack

  2. I was very curious about Catafalque when I first heard about it. And I immediately got a copy. But the more I read of it the more disappointed I was. That said, I did appreciate that he emphasized a different understanding of individuation that is hard for most Americans to comprehend with our hyper-individualistic society. It might have some value if only in that way. Still, even in that, I was left dissatisfied.


    • terenceblake dit :

      Yes, CATAFALQUE is not totally disappointing, but his incessant dismissal of straw-man opponents and his literalisation of symbolic experiences and statements makes him far less insightful than Hillman and Shamdasani, despite his constant bragging.

      Aimé par 1 personne

  3. pvcann dit :

    I wondered on reading this if by chance you’d encountered Mark C. Taylor’s work ‘Erring: a postmodern A/Theology’?


  4. dmf dit :

    your Jung sounds more like Hillman who invented his own archetypal psychology after his clash with the faithful disciples , most Jungians are religious (tho many now say « spiritual ») and preach a Self-ish theology which they see grounded in Jung’s own faith, tragically Jung wasn’t ever a phenomenological pragmatist (Ed Casey and Robert Romanyshyn did a lot of work bricolaging together a phenomenological depth psychology but sadly aren’t pragmatists despite my best efforts at conversion) as Jungians could have fleshed out his early work on feeling-toned complexes and remained relevant to contemporary psychology instead of going further down the dead-end of the sorts of quantum-consciousness/psychoid nonsense that make Jung a proto newager and allow for ever more absurd attempt to keep alive theories of « collective » unconsciousness much as sociology/ideology studies were born of secularized talk about theology (we still have endless gibberish about the Sovereign and all), better to do to « Jung » what Stengers did to Whitehead:
    Ironically the theologian John D. Caputo is probably the best contemporary phenomenological pragmatist thinker of how we find ourselves committed to callings that speak of an archetypal psychology of event-ualities (say Justice or Democracy) that in a derridean fashion are always yet to come and always undermining our attempts to fashion the future as more of the same, leaving us with a kind of self-consciously poetic theo-poetics without revelations or groundings.Hillman once noted that rhetoric is the mode of human-being but he never could give up his faith in there being some salvational/deus-ex-machina third to the object-relations of the critters and their graspings/manglings of their environs.


    • terenceblake dit :

      Yes, but my Jung is the Jung of experience and experiment, the Jung of THE BLACK BOOKS and THE RED BOOK, and even there I am wary of the God-talk. This God-talk seems to be precisely what is privileged by the standardised Jungian readers, and I wish to combat that in favour of a « wilder » Jung.


      • dmf dit :

        you’re certainly welcome to your own Jungianism I’m always grateful for any heterodox moves in that arena (by the way Hillman is still widely reviled by the faithful and most who have aligned themselves with his authority have really neutered his work as he did himself after Revisioning)
        just noting that this wasn’t the history or the later norm and don’t think Jung would recognize himself in it if we look at the context of his life and work or related work around the Eranos and all where they were working out a grand unified theory of order.
        More focus on the fine grains of experience and experiment is all to the good, we can say with and against Jung that the process is to dream the dream forward rather than trying to idol-ize some privileged aspect of it thru universalizing/categorical definitions and institutionalization.
        We now know that all of the aspects of our psyches (feeling, remembering, sensing ,etc0 are processes of assemblage so poetic dwelling for all!


      • terenceblake dit :

        Jung later said that he owed « everything » to the experiences of these years of solitary encounter with the unconscious. He claimed that his later works were attempts at finding a language to express these experiences and the insights that accrued. This was a self-correcting process, and his first attempts cannot be accepted untransformed. He only became confident when he left behind the language of science (and his biologism) in favour of the language of alchemy. Now for the first time we are receiving some of the actual protocols of his experimentation, and we can do something new with it. Jung, unfortunately, is both the grand paranoiac of the grand unified theory of order, and the schizo-poet of the disordering of all the senses. We need to learn from his example, not from his conclusions and their institutionalised formatting. We need to learn to dream our own dreams onward.

        Aimé par 1 personne

      • dmf dit :

        this « He claimed that his later works were attempts at finding a language to express these experiences and the insights that accrued.  » is part of the problem in Jung and Giegerich (see for example https://www.academia.edu/11158973/Another_serious_misunderstanding_Jung_Giegerich_and_a_premature_requiem) and all,
        « Above all, don’t let anything from outside, that does not belong, get into it, for the fantasy-image has“ everything it needs”’
        (Jung 1955, para.
        749) is that whatever we make out of our re-collections of any experience is something new and not a recovery, or unearthing, or sublimation purification/extraction of something that previously existed/arrived,
        attending to the processes and not some supposed contents/logics/revelations would be a novel and welcome approach to depth psychology.


    • Hi dmf,
      I find it hard to understand your comment, probably because I am unlearned in the background literature. Is your pragmatism an allegiance to a (systems?) science delivering knowledge at various locales, points of entry, levels of scale etc. or something more philosophical like a Deleuzian virtual/actual becoming cutting across mind/body/environment “assemblages”? Or is it a matter even of generating or performing assemblages’

      I understand pragmatism to mean that one’s epistemological/ontological commitments should be measured against their (broadly) practical effects etc. Either of the above approaches could pass that test.

      What I’m trying to understand is the basis for your pragmatism. (not as an interrogation of your stance but for my own benefit). In that light couldn’t your point that “We now know that all of the aspects of our psyches (feeling, remembering, sensing ,etc) are processes of assemblage so poetic dwelling for all!” be just as easily dismissed as new-age gibberish as any “absurd attempt to keep alive theories of «collective» unconsciousness.”

      Are not the two approaches equally a “speculative” pragmatism?

      I suppose what I’m trying to understand is how a speculative pragmatism could be validated (or even if it can or should be?)

      Would your link to Stengers throw light on all of this?


      • dmf dit :

        really not sure how you come to say that « “We now know that all of the aspects of our psyches (feeling, remembering, sensing ,etc) are processes of assemblage so poetic dwelling for all!” is in anyway newage so can’t help you there but maybe this would help you get a sense of a pragmatist take on that kind of research:

        Aimé par 1 personne

      • Well, I mean that new age thinking tends to be eclectic. In that sense “poetic dwelling” could simply be a “new-agey” reference to Heidegger, paralleling an equally new-agey reference to Jung’s collective unconscious. Nothing more than that. Both concepts invite “poetic” elaboration, beloved of new agers. Thanks for the link.


  5. Hi Terence,

    When you say:

    “These works are based on phenomenological observation and participation, they are not proposed as evidence of some ontotheological outside «reality».”

    is it a matter of “phenomenological observation and participation” of/in what you call “the cosmogonic schizophrenic unconscious”.

    Would this unconscious be broadly equivalent to what Laruelle calls the real and what Deleuze calls actual/ virtual becomings?

    You often talk of validation, that one shouldn’t simply speculate. If the virtual, the actual, the unconscious or the real are pre or impersonal, in what way is that validation grounded?

    In other words what is the basis for your often expressed misgivings about relativism?

    What is the relation between “dreaming our own dream forward” and validating the possibility of a communicative act that is more then simply a speaking into the void of incommensurable virtual/actual entities already launched on a trajectory of (pre-persona)l individuation?

    Don’t you need some version of the “One” however conceived and doesn’t that make us all “paranoiacs of the grand unified theory of order, and schizo-poets of the disordering of all the senses”?

    Are we not floundering in/as the virtual flux between these two conceptual poles?

    How are we saved from relativism?


  6. terenceblake dit :

    The question of validation is a difficult one, and Jung has a complex, and partially unacknowledged, answer.
    1) Validation by the coherence of a set of experiences over time. Here I would argue that Jung is not a naive empiricist, and that his experience is transcendentally constituted in terms of a conceptual field (however provisional, mobile, plural, and immanent.
    2) Validation by a proximity group (Emma Jung, Toni Wolff, and others).
    3) Validation by patients’ experienced, as « uninfluenced » as possible. Jung’s contortions around Wolfgang Pauli’s analysis involved accepting him as a patient, then immediately referring him to a less experienced disciple who was unfamiliar with his latest theories.
    4) Validation by « encounters » with convergent texts. Jung’s encounter with Wilhelm’s translation of the Chinese SECRETS OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER is emblematic here.
    5) Validation by throwing a message bottle into the uncharted seas of the world and receiving unexpected non-professionally inducted adhesion (this is what you call « speaking into the void of incommensurable virtual/actual entities already launched on a trajectory of (pre-persona)l individuation »).
    All these « validations » are self-correcting (and hetero-correcting) processes of trial and error. I think that Jung would agree with you that there is a « One » underwriting these processes, called by him « Unus Mundus », but it is a One containing a lot of plurality. I am all for weakening and de-potentiating the subjacent One as much as possible, so as to make it in-sufficient. Laruelle’s One, despite his good intentions, but due to his continued scientistic overcoding, is often, to my mind, wielded as a Sufficient One.


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