Friday, January 1, 2010

On the misrepresentation of Carl Jung


Someone wrote, “I haven’t been following this thread too closely. . . .”  

            I must object to its being called a thread.  It might have become one, but Lefty cut it and created a tangent  of his own based upon the word, “Oversoul.”   What I actually wrote was :   “When I read this [Rorty’s quotation], I immediately thought of Jung.  Jung hypothesized a sort of “Oversoul” for each species.  The Oversoul manipulates the general or collective actions of the individuals of a given species for its own good.  It takes responsibility for a specie’s ‘survival strategy.’ 

Lefty read that, and seemed to assume “Oversoul” must be a technical term and must mean what Emerson meant by it – sort of like the drunk looking for his keys by the street light rather than further down the street where he actually lost them – because the light was better.  The book I got Jung’s thesis from was, Flying Saucers : A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Skies.  I read this book perhaps 40 years ago and don’t recall it vividly.  I no longer have it so I can’t look up the precise term Jung used.  That is why I called it “a sort of ‘Oversoul.’”

Back then, another bored Engineer and I resolved to do our own investigation of Flying Saucers.  We divided up all the books we could acquire and began reading.  We also accumulated articles and we each joined a Flying Saucer organization.  He joined NICAP and I joined APRO.  We learned that there were three major schools.  The NICAP (National Investigation Committee for Aerial Phenomena formed by Donald Keyhoe) believed that something was out there because of all the sightings by pilots and others, but contact had not been made.  The next group believed contact had been made and the aliens were friendly, perhaps trying to save us from ourselves – precursors to the ET idea.  The third group, epitomized by APRO (Aerial Phenomena Research Organization formed by Coral Lorenzen) believed contact had been made and the aliens were hostile – a precursor to the X-Files idea.

My friend ended up believing in the NICAP position.  I ended up disbelieving all the positions, but the most memorable book I read was the one by Carl Jung.  It didn’t describe anything that could be believed or disbelieved, at least not by me, but it was an interesting and plausible explanation for the existence of flying saucers.  Could the Jungian Oversoul be demonstrated?  Perhaps not, but in the absence of physical evidence that Flying Saucers exist or ever existed, the idea of mass hallucination isn’t very satisfying either.

While I don’t believe Jung’s theory in any active sense I think it elegant – something to be admired if not believed – not something to be misrepresented and then caricatured. 


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