Tuesday, May 25, 2010
5 AM. All right, Papa, I am ready if you are. Michael thanks you for your reading on things. I take it you had more to say about sex, as opposed to the relations between the sexes.
Huge subject. If I were trying to write my autobiography from this perspective — which I am not — I’d have a lot I’d need to say about sex and my lifetime, for of course it was an important thing for me, but — as you might ask yourself about yourself, or ask anybody about themselves — why?
I know it seems like a schoolboy howler, but if you take the question seriously, you may find that it is more complicated, more intermixed with other things, than first appears.
The only thing I know about Carl Jung’s work is what you know, of course —
We could ask him to join us. (It would ramp up my own anxiety, naturally, but that isn’t necessarily a reason not to do it.)
Go ahead, then.
[CGJ] You have not read Jung, but I read Hemingway, and with some interest. It was more than practicing my English.
I never happened to think of it before, but you died within a month of each other — June 6 and July 2. Not that it necessarily means anything, but it’s striking.
So, Papa, you started to say that all you know of Jung is what I think I know.
[EH] Everybody talked about Freud, and to me it sounded like a lot of horseshit built around something that might or might not be true or useful — but where you, Dr. Jung, wrote (and Frank read) that in other, more primitive, cultures, sex is taken for granted and may not be very important, whereas they might have an enormous appetite for, and interest in, food — that struck home. I can’t see it clearly but I can feel that it applies to what I’ve been trying to say here, and sometimes tried to say in my writings.
[CGJ] Yes. You had a firm but vague grasp of the fact that sex is not what it seems, and is not in any way under the control of the conscious personality, and has its own demands and channels.
What people do may be under their control, to a greater or lesser extent depending upon the integration of their personalities, but what they are urged to do, or impelled to do, or perhaps compelled to do, is not.
And the autonomy of the sex drive — its direction, its preferred manifestation, it’s waxing and waning according to its own laws — all of this cuts against the materialistic, reductionist view of the world that would maintain that we are soulless automatons, or, at best, are the creatures of chance, with no particular destiny and only a future shaped by further chance.
This is why Freud’s theories — or rather, the popular understanding of them — revolutionized European culture. In the wake of the de-Christianization of European culture by the cult of scientism and the assumptions of what one might call spiritual autism, the spirit had only a desert to inhabit (among the educated and lost) or an unconnected faith (among the faithful, who were, by that faith, cut off from Europe’s main cultural mainstream).
If you believed, however, that Freud had proved that all higher and lower impulses proceeded from the sex drive as it interacted with society’s needs and restrictions, suddenly you were free to be “modern” and yet (or should I perhaps say therefore?) liberated. That is, you could follow primitive instincts and express uninhibited behavior without in that way betraying or countering your membership in the “modern, civilized” world.
This was not enough, because it left out too much. Still, it was an advance. And Freud’s advocacy of taking dreams seriously cannot be overrated, for this in one bound took Western civilization over the barrier that it had raised against its own development. If you think that the individual and the individual’s consciousness are autonomous and sufficient unto themselves, you may proceed to think that your world of physical matter is all there is. But once admit that dreams are worthy of study — even if you think they are only clues to what your conscious mind does not wish to know — then you have opened the gates!
I’m a little lost as to where we’re going, here.
[CGJ] Ernest — “Papa” — was a physically oriented man, but he had strong intuition and although his thinking function was more developed than his feeling function — which is why the periodic explosions — he was a dramatically well-balanced man. (That was one source of his tremendous attractiveness — people are drawn to wholeness.) Because he was well-balanced (however little it may appear upon reading superficial biography) he did not accept anything at its surface manifestation. You touched on this in the discussion of learning, the reiterative immersion until he was satisfied that he knew every important relationship between every important element of whatever it was that he was studying.
But he did not confine himself to reading and writing. He lived, as actively as he could, and therefore had life as a counterweight to theory.
So, sex for him was not theory, but neither was it only practice. He thought about everything that he experienced. You must always keep this in mind, in considering him. Life for him was not a one-off event, but a continual reinvestment in past experience, and an enrichment of the present. If you do not see where this leads, I am confident that he does.
[EH] I wouldn’t have thought of it that way, but I see it. I was seeing that none of the easy answers were enough, but I didn’t have the basis for constructing any new theories about it. And I did construct theories.
[CGJ] Consider your lifelong connection to Catholicism, even when the politics of the church alienated you and even though you lived outside its rules. Pretty disreputable to connect with the Catholic Church when you weren’t born into it. Chesterton found it hard enough. Let me suggest that Catholicism and superstition and intuition are closely connected, and are therefore often to be found in the same personality types. I do not mean that Catholicism is a superstition, nor that it is the result (or cause, for that matter) of intuition. But those attracted to one are likely to be so constructed as to be tempted by the others. Were you not in fact somewhat proud of your superstitious nature, rather than ashamed of it or apologetic about it?
[EH] I wouldn’t have drawn the connection. Upton Sinclair connected Catholicism to Latin countries to bedbugs.
[CGJ] But he wasn’t in sympathy. That warped his discernment, as strong mental prejudices always do.
So to return to the question of sex —
[EH] I see the point. Sex was something stronger than anybody, and so I treated it as one of the more important things in life, particularly since society — and literature in English-speaking countries! — had so downgraded and simplified and prettified it, and lied about it, and in fact couldn’t even talk straight about it, so that the very word “fuck” shocked and derailed people in print when they heard it every day, or, if they didn’t, didn’t because it was being avoided by circumlocutions.
People asked why I was so hard on fairies, and assumed that it was because I secretly feared I was one, and repressed the attraction and all. It doesn’t seem to occur to them that I was describing what was all around us, and doing so in an unsentimental way, and a non-hysterical way. And as to what some people call my locker-room talk in real life — that is, not in print — I admit, I did have a strong inclination to be the bull in the china shop. I found this pseudo-gentility so stifling! Why couldn’t people just be what they were, and admit what was, and live with it? I tried to help things along in my writing, no reason for my life to be any different.
Now, if I remember rightly, we began this with the idea of exploring the fact that sex is one drive among many, but has exaggerated importance in the West because it had been so systematically repressed.
[EH] Well think about that, though. Sex wasn’t suppressed (how could it be) so much as discussion of sex, and expression of sex. So you had this huge boiler with the safety valve tied down. If you can’t turn down the heat, you can’t regulate the flow by tying down the safety valve. You can, but not forever. And once it blows, it blows, and you are not going to be reconstructing that particular boiler any time soon.
In my time, as you both know from being within my mind, sex is everywhere, almost tiresomely so. It sells everything, it is conceded to be important in and of itself, and the stupidest people’s sex lives are assumed to be of interest to people, and evidently are.
[CGJ] Yes, and in your time Jung grows in attractiveness and Freud declines. I say this as fact; there is a conclusion to be drawn from it.
I suppose Freud opened the safety valve and the pressure is being lessened by the steam proceeding to fill every space? And when the pressure of sex declines, other things will assume greater importance?
[CGJ] Let’s say that other aspects of life will be seen to be fascinating and productive, in the place of sex, for the coming into contact with new forces is always numinous in itself. Think of your friends, coming to The Monroe Institute because there they can be among others who are equally interested, and can learn to control transpersonal powers. Is that about sex?
No, and in fact it makes sex look sort of humdrum by comparison. Or — not humdrum, not routine, but — ordinary, or, I don’t know —
It makes sex into one of the facts of life like coffee or lunch or creation or the enjoyment of a sunset or a novel. And this is as it should be. It puts it in perspective not as the only thing that counts or as the transcendent experience, but as one aspect of life. And of course a life built around the assumption that contact with the other side was the only thing that counted would be equally one-sided, distorted. Balance is all, except that sometimes we reach balance only through progressive excess.
Well, this went off in a direction that surprised me. Thank you both.