Jun 172011
 

Late in life, Jung’s work with the experimental physicist Wolfgang Pauli encouraged him to take a few steps beyond the pale.

Jung and Paul came to believe that, in addition to the purely physical mechanism of atom knocking against atom, there is another network of connections that binds together events not physically connected – non-physical, causal connections brought about by mind.

Jung’s contemporary, the French anthropologist Henri Corbin, was researching the spiritual practices of the Sufis at this time. Corbin came to the conclusion that the Sufi adepts worked in concert and could communicate with one another in a realm of ‘objective imagination’. Jung coined the same phrase independently.

Later in life the materialistic explanations that Freud had been trying to force on to spiritual experiences also sprang back at him, and he became plagued by a sense of what he called the uncanny.  Freud wrote his essay on ‘The Uncanny’ when he was sixty-two. By thinking about what he feared most he was trying to stop it happening.

A few years earlier he had experienced the number sixty-two coming at him insistently – a hat check ticket, a hotel room number, a train seat number. It had seemed to him that the cosmos was trying to tell him something. Perhaps he would die at the age of sixty-two.

In the same essay he described the experience of walking round a maze of streets in an old Italian town and finding himself in the red light district. He took what he thought would be the most direct route out of this district, but soon found himself back in the middle of it. This seemed to happen no matter which direction he took.

The experience can only remind us of Francis Bacon. It was as if a maze were changing shape to keep the wanderer from finding the way out. As a result of these experiences Freud began to suspect that there might be some complicity between his psyche and the cosmos. Or perhaps the cosmos was manufacturing meanings independently of any human agency and, as it were, beaming them at him?

Jonathan Black, The Secret History of the World

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