The Philosopher’s Stone and the integration of the Brain
Mysterium Coniunctionis was Jung’s last great work. He was engaged on it for more than a decade, from 1941-1954, and finished it in his eightieth year. The book therefore occupies, as one critic observed, “the culminating position in his writings” (The Collected Works of C.G. Jung). In it he compellingly links the practices of alchemy and psychology through a profound analysis of symbolism and an examination of their shared ideas of the integration and ‘union of opposites’. As he notes, “Not only does this modern psychological discipline give us the key to the secrets of alchemy, but, conversely, alchemy provides the psychology of the unconscious with a meaningful historical basis.”
It’s a fascinating, illuminating, and at times breath-taking study, which draws not only on a wide number of alchemical texts but also on Kabbalistic ideas and symbols such as Adam Kadmon (Primordial Man), the Sefirot, and the union of the ‘Holy One’ and his bride. According to Jung, humankind has historically moved from a condition in which it projects the contents of its unconscious onto the world and heavens to one in which, as a result of a total identification with the rational powers of the ego, it has not only withdrawn its vivifying projections from the world but also fails to recognize or understand the archetypes of the unconscious mind.
The Divided Therapist: Hemispheric Difference and Contemporary Psychotherapy
In The God of the Left Hemisphere I explored the remarkable connections between the activities and functions of the human brain that writer William Blake termed ‘Urizen’ and the powerful complex of rationalising and ordering processes which modern neuroscience identifies as ‘left hemisphere’ brain activity. In The Divided Therapist I extend this analysis, exploring its implications for our mental health and the practice of therapy itself – the regeneration and reintegration of the psyche. If the first book was about the “fall into Division”, this book is about the “Resurrection to Unity”: the restoration of psychic wholeness.
The Symbol of Symbolism: Unravelling the form and nature of the underlying Energy
Introduction: Entering the Serpent
Sometimes it’s good just to look at Blake’s images, and let them approach you, without any verbal text, theory, or explanation. An encounter with their other-ness. Over the next few weeks this site will be posting a number of articles exploring the meaning and importance of the symbol of the serpent in Blake’s work, which weaves throughout his vision, and twists and turns throughout his images.
Rod Tweedy explores the pathology of contemporary Disney
Frozen is now the second highest-grossing animated film of all time, and one of the highest-grossing films in any medium ($1.3 billion in worldwide box office sales). 676 million youngsters have viewed and sung along to the YouTube clip of it’s hit song Let It Go, and as Dorian Lynskey notes, “it’s shaped the imagination of a generation”. Beyond the sparkle and CGI patina something about the movie clearly resonates powerfully with children and young people, and I think it’s secret – and what lies at the heart of its appeal – is its potent exploration of themes of childhood anger, ‘ice-olation’, inner devitalisation and self-absorption, which the film both addresses and amplifies.
What’s Missing?: What Michael Jackson, Wade Robson, and James Safechuck reveal about Childhood, Sexuality, and the Entertainment Industry
Introduction: Leaving Neverland
‘Never Leaving Neverland’ might’ve been a better title for this recent high-profile HBO documentary, given its relentless focus on the Neverland ranch as the sole cause of Wade Robson and James Safechuck’s later mental health difficulties.
Michael Jackson and Wade Robson
The exhaustive 4-hour documentary explores allegations made by Robson and Safechuck that they were sexually abused as children by the singer Michael Jackson. Robson and Safechuck are clearly articulate and thoughtful people, which lends their allegations initial credibility and persuasiveness.
But the documentary is equally striking for its one-sidedness, as many commentators (from Rolling Stone to Entertainment Weekly) note. “They have provided no independent evidence and absolutely no proof in support of their accusations. The two accusers testified under oath that these events never occurred.” It’s certainly striking that in 2009 Wade wrote that Jackson was ”one of the main reasons I believe in the pure goodness of human kind”, given what he now claims. His earlier court statements absolutely denying any sexual wrong-doing on the part of Jackson are as convincing as his later statements that Jackson was, in fact, a serial paedophile.
How Late Capitalism Writes Itself Into Nature
‘David’, an ageing patriarch whose time at the top is nearly over and who is clearly anxious about challenges from his younger rivals and concerned with his legacy, narrates this compelling programme about ‘David’, an ageing patriarch whose time at the top is nearly over and who is clearly anxious about challenges from his younger rivals and concerned with his legacy.
The BBC’s new block-buster, Dynasties, can perhaps best be seen as an impressive and timely reflection of the unconscious concerns and obsessions of late capitalism – as Marx presciently observed, ‘The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas’ (e.g. ideas of power, dominance, hierarchy, survival as telos, become ‘naturalised’), and nowhere is this unconscious dynamic seen more clearly than in the dominant ideas of environmentalism.
Consciousness and Revolution
The previous post reprinted Blake’s Europe a prophecy, written shortly after the French Revolution and depicting the political and psychological womb out of which it emerged. His illustrations and text are dense, poetic, and richly ambiguous. Here I unpack some of the main themes of the poem, which revolve around Blake’s critique of materialism, and explore the psychological subtext of the poem. As Paley notes, the function of the prophetic form for Blake was “to expose the otherwise hidden motives and consequences of human decisions”. Blake’s concept of ‘prophecy’ is therefore a form of political psychoanalysis, a powerful new way of going under the skin of contemporary events and accessing the deep psychological and sexual dynamics that lie behind both religious and political structures. This superimposition of different fields of reference (simultaneously political, sexual, religious, psychological) is one of the things that makes Blake’s works so striking and distinct, as well as so dense and multivalent. It is also a feature of his thinking that he has in common with modern psychoanalytic approaches. As Adam Phillips notes:
You can only understand anything that matters — dreams, neurotic symptoms, literature — by overinterpreting it; by seeing it from different aspects as the product of multiple impulses. Authority wants to replace the world with itself. Overinterpretation means not being stopped in your tracks by what you are most persuaded by; it means assuming that to believe one interpretation is to radically misunderstand the object one is interpreting, and indeed interpretation itself.
Blake located the source of contemporary struggle in a specific complex of psycho-social structures and dynamics, which we still see being played out and repeated in contemporary European politics. Until we learn to understand and recognise these processes, Blake believed, we will be doomed to repeat the same underlying cycle again and again: a world where revolution becomes simply endless re-cycling.
Schizophrenia, Spaceboys, and the Spiders from Mars
The death of David Bowie in 2016 revived both intense media interest in his work and astonishing creative legacy and also a plethora of unthinking and misleading cliches about who he was and what he signified. Foremost amongst these was the description of him as some kind of alien being, or “mysterious extraterrestrial”: “40 years ago, in millions of living rooms across the British isles,” one hagiographic BBC documentary started, “a strange alien creature was beamed onto our television screens”. Online and newspaper headlines were full of references to Starmen, Spaceboys, The Man who Fell to Earth – but there was very little attempt to explore or decode these references or to consider their psychological significance.
From Logos to Eros: Humans Moving Beyond the Reality Principle
“Intensified progress seems to be bound up with intensified unfreedom” Herbert Marcuse observed in his classic work Eros and Civilisation, one of the most profound and compelling books ever written on the problem of ‘civilisation’. In it, he tries to explain and unravel this apparent paradox.
‘Eros and Civilization’, a multimedia performance installation by Han Bing [above]. The Sleep of Albion, aka the Enlightenment. Blake believed that the sleep of imagination, not reason, produced the real monsters.