Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Currently reading: Aion, by C.G. Jung, and The Real Work by Gary Snyder

The latter because Gary Snyder is coming to Seattle later this month. I'm just at the beginning of Aion, but if the rest of the book is like it then the style is much clearer and precise than Jung usually is. The back of the book of Aion describes it as, well actually the back of the book doesn't know what to make of it. It points out the four chapters I'm referring to as being a good guide to Jung's thought as a whole, but then doesn't seem to understand what he's getting at with the other ones. He's talking about the development of the self to self realization using cultural symbols present in the west from the Christian era onwards, with some excursions back to the classical period, as the means of expressing the process. Very interesting, and it's the only work of Jung that I've seen that resembles the clarity that's present in most of fellow psychologist Wilhelm Reich's work.

Reich's "The Mass Psychology of Fascism", "The Function of the Orgasm", and "The Murder of Christ" are sharp and to the point without being reductionist. "The Murder of Christ" is a rare poetic excursion of Reich into history in order to analyze the Christ myth in light of his ideas about healthy biological/psychological functioning. Christ becomes an example of an eminently healthy man in an unhealthy situation, where because he wanted to teach people to simply be in harmony with the life force as opposed to having them follow him they turned against him and crucified him. He didn't give them what they wanted. It's an interesting book, and recommended.

Gary Snyder's "The Real Work" is billed as the sequel to "Earth, House, Hold", which is a book of essays, interviews, meditations about the state of the world and possible ecological and cultural alternatives to where the world is heading. Snyder was/is one of the second wave Beat poets and one whose work crossed over to the hippy generation quite well. What "The Real Work" is is applying those sorts of principles to real life and making them work in practice. I haven't read "Earth, House, Hold", but I don't think that my appreciation of "The Real Work" is suffering much for that; the book is pretty self explanatory if you have a general background in counter-cultural ideas about living off the land, ideas that may be familiar to people at least partially because of Snyder himself, although folks as diverse as Scott Nearing and Edward Abbey contributed to it as well.

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