Monday, February 01, 2010


If you've slogged through Aion or Psychological Types or any of Jung's other large tomes, you'll likely be re-reading chunks of that material here. Mostly the book is patched together from the Collected Works. Editor Segal doesn't simply cobble together bits and pieces of prose concerning Gnosticism and Gnostic symbols and ideas, however; he crafted a long introduction which takes pains to point out what Jung got wrong about Gnosticism (either through misinterpretation or lack of access to later scrolls), and he spends some time building context for Jung's interest in Gnostic symbols and medieval alchemy as symbols of unconscious structures and processes.

The title The Gnostic Jung is a bit problematic, given that much of the book--some of its best parts, in fact--features Jung arguing ferociously against critics who called him a Gnostic. Jung explains over and over: (allow me to paraphrase) "I'm an empiricist, and have no ideology. These symbols exist in the unconscious, and I document them when I find them." In other words, the fact that Jung found Gnostic symbols useful in explaining the process of individuation, he argued, certainly didn't mean he was a Gnostic. The collection would benefit from a more accurate title: Jung and Gnosticism, or Jung on Gnosticism. Or, to be po-mo and hip: The (ag?)Gnostic Jung.

Also included in the collection are Jung's peculiar and Philip K. Dickesque "The Seven Sermons to the Dead," which was privately and anonymously published by C.G., much to his later chagrin.

I was pleased to see Jung's Red Book and some of his paintings and sketches and notes at the Rubin Museum in New York. Perhaps it's why I dreamed of a giant menacing spider-beetle the other night?


Casey said...

But do you recommend it? I'm
pretty familiar with Jung's "empiricist" defense, but is this a wothwhile overview/analysis?

Nyarlathotep said...

I'd recommend it only to those who don't really know Jung's work but who are interested in Gnosticism and his psychoanalytic theory. The letters he wrote to cats like Martin Buber are interesting, the Seven Sermons is far-out personal mythology with a Gnostic tinge, but otherwise there's nothing here which is not reprinted from the CW (and I'm sure you could find the Seven Sermons and letters online somewhere).

Casey said...

I've read the CW, admittedly more than a decade ago, but I'm always interested in new scholarly angles. Guess this isn't quite it.

I've had the Red Book for several months now, but still haven't had a chance to pore over it. Thing is huge. And not in length, bit in sheer size.

Nyarlathotep said...

I was surprised to realize it had been more than a decade since I read huge swaths of Jung (before bogging down in the middle of Mysterium Conjunctionis).

I have the Red Book too. I leafed through it slowly once, and haven't opened it since. I'm saving it for summer vacay.