I want to focus on the difference between Jung’s typological work and his archetypal work, contrasting the flexibility of the former against the rigidness of the latter. To understand that, we’ll need to focus on how they differ in their conceptions of human cognition. From there, we’ll be in a good position to think about whether or not we can salvage the archetypal work and, if so, how.
I have just started reading Secrecy and the Gods: Secret Knowledge in Ancient Mesopotamia and Biblical Israel by Alan Lenzi as part of an effort to educate myself a little in the emergence and diffusion of religious ideas in the cradle of civilization. That fits into a broader project I have going on, but I talk about that sort of stuff on my other blog, Spirited Culture (and it will be a little bit before I am ready to post anything about that there).
Here, I just want to wax poetic on the value and rewards of clear scholarly writing. Well-formed scholastic discourse, with a clear sense of its foundations and aims, is like tonic for the intellect. Lenzi does an exceptional job situating his work within his discipline and, in so doing, shines a bright light on the temperament of the field at present.
On a whim, I pulled an old reader off my shelf, Greek and Roman Philosophy after Aristotle, and flipped through it until I alighted on some selection that captured my interest. I found two selections, both from figures living in Alexandria, albeit separated by centuries, Philo and Clement of Alexandria. Clement cites Philo freely, so it’s no wonder that there is an affinity between the two figures.
There is a vital chord in both of their works, some untimely song that rises above the merely contemporary dimension of their work. Since one good whim led me to read them, I figure I’ll follow a second whim and just post my very first efforts to sketch out that chord. It may not make sense to anyone but me. At least it will make it easier for me to find these notes later.
[8/5/2010: Virtually no modification from original posting in July of 2009]
This post is largely critical, distinguishing obstacles that have come between me and a healthy concept of religious community. It’s propadeutic. It includes some glimmers of how I want to start talking about religion and community, but an awful lot about what I think may stand in the way of that.
The general approach of the book echoes the style of historiography that Dumezil engaged in. It amplifies Odin’s mythic presence by situating him within a broader Indo-European context. The approach appeals to me deeply. The incredible overlap between different Indo-European cultures myths make it possible to establish some rich comparative framework. It also provides me with an occasion to think again about the issue of women’s mysteries and men’s mysteries in the historical record.
So there is this beautiful passage in Plato’s Phaedrus in which he describes the orbits of the gods about the Good, each accompanied in train by the souls they have chosen for their retinue. It’s a beautiful passage and, sadly, I don’t have a copy of the work ready to hand to quote.
But I was always struck by how that seemed to parallel the notion in many African diaspora faiths that the orisha or loa chose heads. The metaphor seemed nearly identical, right up to the notion that the orsha/loa were in turn oriented toward Olodumare or Bon Dieu, the greater Good.
So, let me share this little bit I came across in Simone Weil’s Intimation of Christianity among the Ancient Greeks:
The image of the man as a plant whose root penetrates heaven is linked in the Timaeus to a theory of chastity….This plant is sprinkled by celestial water, a divine semen, which enters the head. In that man who continually exercises the spiritual and the intellectual part of himself…in him the whole contents of the head, including the divine semen, is propelled by circular movements like those which govern the rotation of the heavens, the stars and sun. This divine semen is what Plato calls the divine being lodged with us, in us, and whom we must serve. (98-99)
How well this parallels the whole notion of initiation and worship in many of the African diaspora faiths! It’s interesting to think of that in evolutionary terms, as indication perhaps that the two share a common ancestor. If naught else, it’s interesting to consider in terms of parallel development.
In Straw Dogs, Gray quotes Schopenhauer from On the Basis of Morality:
“I should liken Kant to a man at a ball, who all evening has been carrying on a love affair with a masked beauty in the vain hope of making a conquest, when at last she throws off her mask and reveals herself to be his wife” (37)
It’s a good quote, I would say a ‘true’ fable. But both Schopenhauer and Gray seem unable to crack open its hard outer shell to enjoy the meaty nut contained within. They think Kant laughable, worthy of derision, for being so foolish as to spend so much time chasing after what was already his.
But imagine that this story is not in the mouth, the pen of bitter Schopenhauer, sitting, lonely, in his study with his dog Atman at his feet. Strip away the cynical laugh he is having at the ‘old fool.’ Instead, imagine Kant telling this story, his wife at his side, in a warm drawing room, with an old friend fresh from the dusty road to Konigsberg.