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Switch to Forum Live View Jung's terrible vision
6 years ago  ::  Nov 27, 2008 - 10:49AM #1
cherubino
Posts: 7,277

The Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung (1875-1961) was a highly controversial figure in the early years of psychoanalysis and remains so today. He was, by all accounts including his own, a loner, a misfit and rebel. His less sympathetic biographers have focused on his rocky relationships with his wife and Sigmund Freud, his longtime affair with one of his patients, as well as his alleged anti-Semitism and collusion with the Nazis. Perhaps the more interesting thing is that he still haunts and intrigues our increasingly conflated world of spirituality, religion and psychotherapy, and this myth-debunking biography which came out only two years ago, runs a whopping 881 pages.



Nevertheless, his impact on the founding members of AA and the early recovery movement was both profound and remarkably successful. The story of his influence on Rowland Hazard in 1932 is told on pages 26-7 of the Big Book:




Bill Wilson later acknowledged all that in both an article in the Grapevine magazine and a personal letter to Jung in 1961:




In his autobiography, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, Jung described several days of mental and emotional torment when he was 12 years old, when his unconscious repeatedly erupted with an image of God sitting on a golden throne in heaven over a beautiful cathedral. Jung wrote that he sensed he was somehow being tested, that he must let the vision emerge completely if he was to know God in his fullness. Summoning all his courage, he let the fantasy unfold: God in the blue sky, and then from under the throne, a massive turd fell to earth and shattered the cathedral. Bliss flooded Jung's brain, and thereafter he knew God's plan for him was to "think abominations to experience His grace." But Jung never told his father, a conventional Swiss Lutheran Reform minister, of his vision. He could not bear the responsibility of plunging him into the "despair and sacrilege" that he saw at that age as being necessary for grace.

Jung recounted:

"So that was it! I felt an enormous, and indescribable relief. Instead of the expected damnation, grace had come upon me, and with it an unutterable bliss such as I had never known. I wept for happiness and gratitude. The wisdom and goodness of God had been revealed to know that I had yielded to His inexorable command. It was as though I had experienced an illumination. A great many things I had not previously understood became clear to me. That was what my father [a Lutheran minister] had not understood, I thought; he had failed to experience the will of God, had opposed it for the best reasons and out of the deepest faith. And that was why he had never experienced the miracle of grace which heals all and makes all comprehensible. He had taken the Bible's commandments as his guide; he believed in God as the Bible prescribed and as his forefathers had taught him. But he did not know the immediate living God who stands, omnipotent and free, above His Bible and His Church, who calls upon man to partake of His freedom, and can force him to renounce his own views and convictions in order to fulfill without reserve the command of God. In His trial of human courage God refuses to abide by traditions, no matter how sacred. In His omnipotence He will see to it that nothing really evil comes of such tests of courage. If one fulfills the will of God one can be sure of going the right way.

"God had also created Adam and Eve in such a way that they had to think what they did not at all want to think. He had done that in order to find out whether they were obedient. And He could also demand something of me that I would have had to reject on traditional religious grounds. It was obedience which brought me grace, and after that experience I knew what God's grace was. One must be utterly abandoned to God; nothing matters but fulfilling His will. Otherwise all is folly and meaninglessness. From that moment on, when I experienced grace, my true responsibility began. Why did God befoul His cathedral? That, for me, was a terrible thought. But then came the dim understanding that God could be something terrible. I had experienced a dark and terrible secret. It overshadowed my whole life, and I became deeply pensive." (From "Memories, Dreams, Reflections," Vintage Books 1961, pp. 39-40.)

This is the controversial background on the man who introduced the idea of "God as we [individually] understood Him" to an alcoholic who was desperate to stop drinking and the rest, as they say, is history. Rowland Hazard carried the story back to the Oxford Groups, and his friend and fellow Oxford Grouper Ebby Thatcher later related it to Bill Wilson in 1934. Jung's input has been hailed by some as the decisive paradigm shift that created the recovery movement, while the proponents of various religious and therapeutic models have subsequently brushed it aside as mere packing material, claiming that they've had the solution to the problem of alcoholism all along. They didn't have a solution that actually worked, of course, and that is the only reason that Alcoholics Anonymous was founded. Nor could it ever have succeeded if its founding members hadn't stayed sober. AA, like the Emanuel Movement, the Washingtonians and the Oxford Groups before it, would have simply faded away by death and attrition.

But the historical fact is that prior to the introduction of this then new and pivotal idea that a spiritual experience based on one's own private and intuitive conception of God as the founding principle of AA in 1935, alcoholics were generally written off as utterly hopeless by moralists, doctors, therapists and society at large. We tend to forget that, and since then, in a theological climate of prudently sidestepped tolerance by various churches as to the orthodoxy of that belief as they tacitly credit themselves with having invented it, and as heated controversies persist among therapists as to the validity of it at all, a few million of us alcoholics have quietly and unobtrusively found permanent sobriety using our own private and often blasphemous conceptions of God.

More on all this here:




Maybe it's time to take old Carl Jung out of the wastebasket of history, blow off the dust and take another look at just how revolutionary his own spirituality really was, most notably with his notions of "think[ing] abominations to experience His grace" and plunging into "despair and sacrilege." This was the unique, radical and seminal vision that gave AA its unprecedented even if wobbly success in its early years, but now all that seems to be getting swept under the rug in favor of psychotropic pharmaceuticals to numb the brain or equally numbing conventional therapeutic platitudes, and/or complacent, sanctimonious moralizing.

If all this seems irrelevant these days, why hasn't Jung just faded away? What is it about him that still intrigues us?
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6 years ago  ::  Nov 27, 2008 - 12:23PM #2
mountain_man
Posts: 39,105
[QUOTE=cherubino;922374]...So, was Jung's vision a revolutionary paradigm shift that's still vital to the recovery movement as it exists today, or was it a transitional glitch that has been rightly co-opted and watered down by more "responsible" pundits?[/QUOTE]
It was a disaster that removed recovery from chemical dependence from psychology where it  belongs and dropped it in the incapable hands of religion. The paradigm shift that is needed is to wrest it from the hands of religion and move recovery back to psychology. There should be no recovery "movement" but just plain recovery.
Dave - Just a Man in the Mountains.

I am a Humanist. I believe in a rational philosophy of life, informed by science, inspired by art, and motivated by a desire to do good for its own sake and not by an expectation of a reward or fear of punishment in an afterlife.
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6 years ago  ::  Nov 27, 2008 - 1:22PM #3
cherubino
Posts: 7,277

mountain_man wrote:

It was a disaster that removed recovery from chemical dependence from psychology where it  belongs and dropped it in the incapable hands of religion. The paradigm shift that is needed is to wrest it from the hands of religion and move recovery back to psychology. There should be no recovery "movement" but just plain recovery.



Dave,

I basically agree with that, but who's going to enforce it in a free society? The so-called recovery movement has not only been a profit-making enterprise for various sects and denominations, but also a huge financial windfall for the rehab industry and the pharmaceutical companies. Even the term "treatment" itself is undefined and unregulated, and here's just one recent example of the deep and far-reaching impact that big money is having on this whole field of inquiry:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/22/healt … r=1&ref=us

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6 years ago  ::  Nov 27, 2008 - 1:58PM #4
mountain_man
Posts: 39,105
[QUOTE=cherubino;922578]Dave,

I basically agree with that, but who's going to enforce it in a free society?


There is nothing to enforce. The medical community has to step up and take responsibility for their inactions of the past 100 years or so.

The so-called recovery movement has not only been a profit-making enterprise for various sects and denominations, but also a huge financial windfall for the rehab industry and the pharmaceutical companies. Even the term "treatment" itself is undefined and unregulated, and here's just one recent example of the deep and far-reaching impact that big money is having on this whole field of inquiry:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/22/healt … r=1&ref=us[/QUOTE]
That is part of the problem. There are 12step mills out there that just throw AA at people and collect the insurance money. Another part is that when I was taking classes to get my certification as a drug/alcohol counselor, half the class was AA. I protested often and got the teacher pissed off often. I passed, got the certification in spite of the barely passing grade that one teacher gave me. And this class was at a Cal. State University that has a respectably sized psychology dept. It seems that too many see it easier to just go along with AA instead of speaking out.

Dave - Just a Man in the Mountains.

I am a Humanist. I believe in a rational philosophy of life, informed by science, inspired by art, and motivated by a desire to do good for its own sake and not by an expectation of a reward or fear of punishment in an afterlife.
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6 years ago  ::  Feb 11, 2009 - 8:21PM #5
CaliberCadillac
Posts: 2,867
Cherub,

Two passages in Paul’s letter to the Galatians come to mind having read your OP:

“Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?” (Gal 3:3)

And,

“…how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?”
(Gal 4:9)

It seemed rather clear to me in Bill’s letter to Dr. Jung that Rowland H. was sent to the Oxford Group which Bill tells us was, “…an evangelical movement then at the height of its success in Europe.” It was there that Rowland had the spiritual experience that lead to his subsequent and sustaining sobriety. If the second chapter of the BB is anything, it’s a beacon of hope for the suffering alcoholic who has found psychology, medicine, and institutionalized recovery methods ineffective.

As far as Jung’s vision is concerned, I don’t doubt its veracity one iota. Whenever God makes a real appearance he typically has to defecate on what the human mind has contorted his revelations into. ‘Put the new wine into new wineskins,’ as the Master put it. Paul was on the same page when he said to the Philippians concerning his former religious background prior to the newfound spirituality he had discovered in Christ,
“I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung (Gk. for shit), that I may win Christ.” (Phil 3:8).

Therefore, far from Mountain Man’s recommendation for the medical community (a human power, see pg. 60of the BB) to “step up,” I say they need to step off, so that the suffering alcoholic can ‘let go, and let God.’ Further, if you want to run from God back to Jung, I would imagine he would in turn send you right back to God, as he did with Rowland.

Cal
"Sometimes you gotta step into the ring and throw a few punches for what you believe in."

--Ernest Hemingway--
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6 years ago  ::  Feb 11, 2009 - 10:51PM #6
cherubino
Posts: 7,277
Cal,

So what would you say is the goal here, to adapt our recovery  to satisfy the presuppositions of theologians, philosophers  or therapists? Whom or what should we trust here, a paradigm that didn't work  for almost 2,000 years or one that has produced concrete and measurable  results?

Or to put that more bluntly, if St. Paul had the answer all  along, how is it that no one figured out how to apply it to alcoholics until  1935? I've known many sincere and devout Christians, my own mother included, who  could quote Holy Writ chapter & verse when they were three sheets to the  wind, but hadn't a clue about how not to take that first drink. Is God really  that stingy with His grace, or were they failing to grasp some deeper and more  arcane nuances of meaning in those scriptures?

Or to put it yet another  way, if Christianity has had the solution all along, then why hasn't AA itself  become a predominantly or wholly Christian organization simply by default and  attrition? And if the Oxford Group had a better mousetrap, why did the movement  die out?

I believe we alkies must find a pragmatic and reliable  answer to this, after which we can discuss theology til hell freezes over-- if  we so desire.
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6 years ago  ::  Feb 12, 2009 - 1:18AM #7
mountain_man
Posts: 39,105

CaliberCadillac wrote:

...Therefore, far from Mountain Man’s recommendation for the medical community (a human power, see pg. 60of the BB) to “step up,” I say they need to step off, so that the suffering alcoholic can ‘let go, and let God....l


Not everyone wants to base their life on your religious superstitions.

Dave - Just a Man in the Mountains.

I am a Humanist. I believe in a rational philosophy of life, informed by science, inspired by art, and motivated by a desire to do good for its own sake and not by an expectation of a reward or fear of punishment in an afterlife.
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6 years ago  ::  Feb 12, 2009 - 2:52PM #8
cherubino
Posts: 7,277

mountain_man wrote:

Not everyone wants to base their life on your religious superstitions.


Dave,

Paradoxically, that's where you, I, Jung and the AA Big Book are actually in agreement. Rowland H. at first assumed that he could get sober by acquiescing to somebody else's conception of God, and to his consternation he was drunk again in a short time. And that's why I started this thread, because AA has been deeply influenced by those who would impose either conventional religious piety and morality or some therapeutic program of mental discipline, both of which involve shifting the locus of control over to somebody else and their ideas.

In point of fact, though, Jung was talking about neither of these, a point which is blithely ignored by those on both sides of the aisle. The only locus of authority or control Rowland was being admonished to consider was his own idiosyncratic and wholly subjective experience of a power greater than himself. The rest of the AA recommendations are addressed to those who've already tapped into this experience, and in large measure its failures can be attributed to those who dismiss it as either heresy or superstition.

Again, from that story:

The doctor said: "You have the mind of a chronic alcoholic. I have never seen one single case recover, where that state of mind existed to the extent that it does in you." Our friend felt as though the gates of hell had closed on him with a clang.

He said to the doctor, "Is there no exception?"

"Yes," replied the doctor, "there is. Exceptions to cases such as yours have been occurring since early times. Here and there, once in a while, alcoholics have had what are called vital spiritual experiences. To me these occurrences are phenomena. They appear to be in the nature of huge emotional displacements and rearrangements. Ideas, emotions, and attitudes which were once the guiding forces of the lives of these men are suddenly cast to one side, and a completely new set of conceptions and motives begin to dominate them. In fact, I have been trying to produce some such emotional rearrangement within you. With many individuals the methods which I employed are successful, but I have never been successful with an alcoholic of your description."

Upon hearing this, our friend was somewhat relieved, for he reflected that, after all, he was a good church member. This hope, however, was destroyed by the doctor's telling him that while his religious convictions were very good, in his case they did not spell the necessary vital spiritual experience.


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6 years ago  ::  Feb 12, 2009 - 3:09PM #9
mountain_man
Posts: 39,105

cherubino wrote:

Dave,

Paradoxically, that's where you, I, Jung and the AA Big Book are actually in agreement.


Uh.... no.  AA is based on superstitions.

Rowland H. at first assumed that he could get sober by acquiescing to somebody else's conception of God, and to his consternation he was drunk again in a short time. And that's why I started this thread, because AA has been deeply influenced by those who would impose either conventional religious piety and morality or some therapeutic program of mental discipline, both of which involve shifting the locus of control over to somebody else and their ideas.


Smith and Wilson started AA and based it on their religious beliefs. Those were greatly influenced by the christian fundamentalist movement of the time. They wanted to ompose their beliefs on othes.

In point of fact, though, Jung was talking about neither of these, a point which is blithely ignored by those on both sides of the aisle. The only locus of authority or control Rowland was being admonished to consider was his own idiosyncratic and wholly subjective experience of a power greater than himself. The rest of the AA recommendations are addressed to those who've already tapped into this experience, and in large measure its failures can be attributed to those who dismiss it as either heresy or superstition.


There is no need to invent "a power greater than yourself." It's a useless concept. Jung is old news. Try some of the newer psychologies. REBT, for one, does not recognize such powers. YOU have the power and if you rely upon a power outside of yourself to fix you; you'll never get fixed.

Dave - Just a Man in the Mountains.

I am a Humanist. I believe in a rational philosophy of life, informed by science, inspired by art, and motivated by a desire to do good for its own sake and not by an expectation of a reward or fear of punishment in an afterlife.
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6 years ago  ::  Feb 12, 2009 - 3:13PM #10
CaliberCadillac
Posts: 2,867

cherubino wrote:

Cal,


cherubino wrote:

So what would you say is the goal here, to adapt our recovery to satisfy the presuppositions of theologians, philosophers or therapists? Whom or what should we trust here, a paradigm that didn't work for almost 2,000 years or one that has produced concrete and measurable results?

Or to put that more bluntly, if St. Paul had the answer all along, how is it that no one figured out how to apply it to alcoholics until 1935? I've known many sincere and devout Christians, my own mother included, who could quote Holy Writ chapter & verse when they were three sheets to the wind, but hadn't a clue about how not to take that first drink. Is God really that stingy with His grace, or were they failing to grasp some deeper and more arcane nuances of meaning in those scriptures?


In recovery, the goal is to live a life happy, joyous, and free from the addictions and behaviors that are ultimately self destructive. That addiction for me was of course alcohol. We know however, that "the alcohol is but a symptom…”

I would contend that it (God as revealed in Christianity) has, and did work quite effectively prior to 1935. We see in Bill’s Story on pages 9 and following, that his old school chum and former drinking companion refusing to take a drink. He had become sober. Why? His reply to Bill was, “I got religion.” Anybody who was been around the block a few times knows that the term, “got religion” is a 19th and early 20th century poorly descriptive colloquialism for what we called in the 70’s being “born again.” Bill goes on to describe his own personal prejudices against religion and institutionalized Christianity. (pgs 10-11 BB). On page 12 it is this same friend who then suggests to Bill, “Why don’t your choose your own conception of God.” It was this suggestion that became the pivotal moment where Bill realized he could access the Grace and Power of God directly, outside of the confines of any traditional religious setting.

In my opinion, the reason so many “devout Christians,” can’t find the power to not drink (or whatever), is because they missed finding Christ in their Christianity. (or they have lost sight of him). They have traded out the spiritual in favor of the religion. Further, all too often organized religion can become its own barrier to God. We see this in Christ’s rebuke of the Pharisees,

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men's faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.” (Matt 23:3)

I remember soon after being led to Christ back in the late 70’s, I was invited to a Lutheran Church service. This was the first time I had been to church since I had left home and my Presbyterian parents. The whole setting reminded me of that dead ecclesiastical setting that I was forced to endure every Sunday growing up. I hated it, I knew this wasn’t the life in Christ that I had recently gotten a glimpse of. Soon after, I found a congregational fellowship that had completely dispensed with all the mainstream denominational decor and traditions that I had known prior to my conversion. There I was able to develop a relationship with my Higher Power that was based on my own conception of whom he was, and allow that concept to grow and develop as he revealed himself more and more to me through meditation, prayer, and my own study of Scripture.

cherubino wrote:

Or to put it yet another way, if Christianity has had the solution all along, then why hasn't AA itself become a predominantly or wholly Christian organization simply by default and attrition? And if the Oxford Group had a better mousetrap, why did the movement die out?




Because Christianity is not the solution! As we read in the BB chapter 2, There is a Solution, the solution is God himself providing the spiritual experience that leads to the efficacious paradigm shift that empowers the suffering alcoholic to not take that first drink.

The Oxford Group probably died out for the same reason that so many other movements of God die out. They became too large, too well organized, there were disputes, splits, disagreements in policy, the usual thing that kill a fresh work of God…human intervention.

I think what keeps AA going and growing is the built in simplicity of the 12 traditions, and the individual group autonomy that keeps it as a place where God can move without being quenched by someone introducing a religious demagogical authoritarian hierarchy.

cherubino wrote:

I believe we alkies must find a pragmatic and reliable answer to this, after which we can discuss theology til hell freezes over-- if we so desire.




Again, I feel that what is pragmatic, is the spiritual experience. Jung knew this. If we need to dissect the Grace of God working in the life of a recovering alkie into some psychological naturalistic phenomena of the human mind, I think we do so at the risk of sacrificing the 2nd and 3rd step of our program.

Cal

"Sometimes you gotta step into the ring and throw a few punches for what you believe in."

--Ernest Hemingway--
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