Smashing heads? Jung dreams torn assunder…

by endlesspsych

What can I say?


Billy Corgan,  of smashing pumpkins fame, and David Byrne, of being from Dumbarton and in Talking heads fame, are among the names to appear in a “conversation series” about “legendary” psychoanalyst Carl Jung (as are “comedian” Sarah Silverman and being John Malkovitch scribe Charlie Kauffman among others) taking place at the Rubin Museum of Arts and chaired by a “professional” psychoanalyst (thinking along the lines of Robin Inces’ description of Chiros as “spine wizards” you could probably justifiably regard psychoanalysts as “mind wizards”.)

For those that don’t know Jung was a psychiatrist, not a psychologist – nor for that matter was Freud, who founded the analytical “psychology” modestly referred to as Jungian… Jung stated that the human psyche was “by nature religious” and he emphasized understanding the psyche through exploring the worlds of dreams, art, mythology, religion and philosophy. His most notable ideas include the concept of psychological archetypes, the collective unconscious and synchronicity among others the more scientifically minded may wish to choose to ignore as metaphysical nonsense. (I certainly advocate this position).

Jung still holds influence over the practice of the psuedoscience known as psychoanalysis and in some areas of literary criticism, his ideas have by and large been roundly rejected within psychology in favour of evidence and the like. Jung is perhaps famous as being one of many splitters to break with Frauds (ok thats an intentional misspelling of Freud, but if Huxley can do it why can’t I?) and develop their own ideas and schools of psychoanalysis (Or their own little cults of personality if you prefer). Written during this time was Jung’s Red Book which may have been written while Jung was “menaced by a psychosis”. Jung himself said of the work:

The years… when I pursued the inner images, were the most important time of my life. Everything else is to be derived from this. It began at that time, and the later details hardly matter anymore. My entire life consisted in elaborating what had burst forth from the unconscious and flooded me like an enigmatic stream and threatened to break me. That was the stuff and material for more than one life. Everything later was merely the outer classification, scientific elaboration, and the integration into life. But the numinous beginning, which contained everything, was then.

Make of that what you will…

The book was written using a “technique” developed by Jung called active imagination is, according to wikipedia anyway,:

a meditation technique wherein one’s emotions are translated into images, narrative or personified as separate entities. It can serve as a bridge between the conscious ‘ego’ and the unconscious and includes working with dreams and the creative self via imagination or fantasy.

Jung linked Active Imagination with the processes of alchemy in that both strive for oneness and inter-relatedness from a set of fragmented and dissociated parts.

Which sounds like it might just be fairly prone to a bit of confirmation bias… But I digress.

Normally I’d be up in arms as celebrities being asked to comment on psychology, mental health or the science of the mind. But as it is I’m more tickled that the speakers choosenfor the conversation probably reflect the intellectual seriousness of the event (a distinct lack of Professor this or Doctor that). My only worry is that, what might be considered a, celebrity endorsement of psychoanalysis might lead to some form of popular resurgence and put the public perception of psychology and the study of the brain right back at square one. Standing unjustly in the shadow of Freud, Jung and co.

I may return to this as the museum is offering podcasts of most of the conversations and it might be amusing to see what our celebrity chums have to say about psychoanalysis and Jung…

If anyone can offer a psychoanalytic review of either Talking heads or the Smashing pumpkins back catelouge feel free (although be kind they are among my favourite bands).