The Clermont Story: arguing christian responsability by David Holt

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1 Responsibility Gone Missing
2 Clermont
3 Rudery and Mystery
4 Flailing and Flaying
5 Tudor Sexuality
6 Personality
7 Zurich and the Theatricality of Being
8 1st paper: the Yes and the No of the Two Virgins
9 2nd paper: Sado-masochism and the Peculiar Numinosity of Machines
10 3rd paper: Repetition of Repeated Reversal
11 4th paper: Apocalypse and the Invention of the Method of Invention
12 5th paper: A Special Kind of Curiosity
13 6th paper: Offence that is Unspeakable?
14 Dad’s Historical Holies
15 The Dove and the Boar
16 Funeral
17 Cambridge
18 In Front of the Children
19 Lenten Voicework
20 Laughter at the Foot of the Cross
21 Surprised by Gender
22 That Penis Again
23 Publishing my Dreams
24 God
25 Masturbation
26 Facing Likeness
27 Skin, an Indispensable Viscus
28 Fresh Argument
1974 Jung and Marx: alchemy, christianity, and the work against nature
1976 Sado-masochism and the peculiar numinosity of machinest
1981 Jung and the Third Person
1983 Riddley Walker and Greenham Comon
1988 Alchemy and Psychosis: curiosity and the metaphysics of time
1994 Sacred Hunger: exponential growth and the Bible


On September 11th, 2001, the final draft of David Holt’s conclusion to The Clermont Story arrived through the post. (Clermont, incidentally, is where Pope Urban II preached the first crusade in 1095). A few hours later, two aircraft crashed into the World Trade Centre, and another on to the Pentagon. The Twin Towers collapsed and the images which we watched on TV seared into the psyche with symbolic power.

Coincidence? Of course. Synchronicity? Without doubt. But what does that mean? What is the “added value” of that concept? Jung speaks of the simultaneous occurrence of two meaningful but not causally connected events. Since synchronicity has been throughout the feeling-tone (as David would put it) of my connexion with The Clermont Story I will return to it later. But, put briefly, if you want one book to understand what is going on, what we are doing to ourselves and our world, this is it.

What is going on in our world? I am a rabbi, which means teacher. I teach in and out of the Synagogue, in formal and informal settings, often with Jews, but not exclusively. In the face of the holocaust, of the tragedies in the Middle East and the continuing conflicts between Israel and the Palestinians which some now see as part of a wider conflict between Islam and the West, what can I teach? Where now do we find God? When the external world is so chaotic, how do we find meaning, or purpose? But formulating the question in this way suggests that there is an external world entirely independent of our psychological perspective, though it is also certainly true that we do not only receive but also create our world. There are ontological questions here: the very formation of our thinking and understanding is at stake.

The Clermont Story explores these issues and in particular, its purpose is to start fresh argument between christian and non christian. “To take [this] up christian and non christian have to enquire together into their differences”. (p. David throughout spells christian with a small c).

One immediate response to September 11th, written the day after, pursues such themes:

To Islam, America seems to represent the presence of the demonic in the world. To most Westerners, Islam is a huge and shadowy unknown with a few markers of custom and practice that run directly counter to our standards of pluralism and human rights. The world is presently divided into polar opposites, each of which considers the other benighted and evil. We need much greater consciousness of nuance, or points of agreement, of shared values and concerns as well as considered reflection of the meaning of wide differences. (1)

In the face of globalization, this, of course, has to be a world-wide enterprise extending far beyond the relatively cozy world of Jew, Christian and Moslem, the Abrahamic faiths. It is now unavoidable, if we are to avoid increasing chaos and disharmony, that world religions and political leadership meet and reflect deeply together. But if even these three Abrahamic religious traditions are locked once again in murderous conflict, surely it is grandiose to look beyond: and what does “reflect together” mean?

It is here that The Clermont Story is so vital. Often when we feel lost and split apart, we ask ourselves in what sense do our lives have meaning? Or purpose, or value? Sometimes, we look for answers outside ourselves, as if they were to be conferred upon us by God, or the Universe, by a priest or rabbi or, most dangerously perhaps, in the unquestioned assumptions of our secular age. At other times we imagine that such understandings are purely personal and subjective, and that we can only gain purpose or meaning in what we do, in our family life, in who we are. We then dismiss our findings as purely subjective, our own – ephemeral, fleeting, of no real relevance outside ourselves.

A central teaching of David Holt’s life and work is that neither of these two positions is adequate: meaning, purpose, value is neither given nor made. Perhaps we may better describe the process as uncovering, finding or, perhaps, intuiting. The Clermont Story illustrates David’s interweaving of personal and political, dream and myth, history and philosophy, experience and knowledge, more fully than any other writing that I know. Events, stories, encounters, publications, life itself is worked through and then reworked to reveal deeper and fuller understandings.

There is a Chassidic story, recounted by Martin Buber in the beginning of his short essay The Way of Man. It tells of a rebbe (a Chassidic word for rabbi) observing a student, who has fasted for several days but then, aware of his growing pride in his achievements, abandons the fast. The rebbe comments, scathingly, “patchwork”. Buber recounts his dismay at his own early reading of this tale. He would have expected, he writes, that the rebbe would have been more encouraging. Later, Buber comments, he realised that the rebbe was suggesting that the deeds were a reflection of a lack of unity in the soul. Still later, however, Buber was troubled, once again, by what such a teaching would mean. As Buber uncovers the layers of his reflections upon the story, we are taken deeper and deeper into an analysis of our own life.

It is exactly this that David achieves in his writing. He makes us wonder how we are doing in our own self-understanding, and he makes it clear to us how much we miss. Buber suggests that the opposite of patchwork is “all of a piece”, and David Holt’s work shows us how life can be seen as, and become, all of a piece, not his alone, but ours.

And so to The Clermont Story.

David’s work deals with central forces which manifest in our world today, sometimes seeming quite disparate and unconnected but which he links through a lifetime’s experience and research. Marxism and alchemy, Christianity and money, the metaphysics of time and exponential growth, the work of civilization against nature. Though initially they may seem arcane and remote, bizarre in their juxtapositions, The Clermont Story rightly puts Christianity at the centre of world history. David suggests (p. ) that over centuries of disciplined intellectual questioning of the Eucharist a space opened up between mind and matter which was altogether new in the history of mankind, and that it was this space (a Jew here would think of one of the popular medieval names of God, HaMakom: the place) that made possible the scientific revolution of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

The work is in two parts. One part, the second (perhaps to be read first?) consists of key papers (from a twenty year period, 1974 to 1994), which are both extremely simple and challengingly complex. They deal with topics which stir the roots of our being. Many of them I had known previously but when I received a first draft of this collection, I read and re-read them and immediately felt that this was too precious not to share widely. I asked David for eight more copies, which I sent to friends. Some responded, but others were overwhelmed. The mixture is so rich and varied, and potent and, furthermore, there were sixty pages of introduction which wove still more questions into what could already seem esoteric.

It was those sixty pages which captured me, however. Here was an outstanding example of Socrates’ “examined life”, where every scrap of evidence, of response, of personal and family history, of death and life, stammer, heart attack, masturbation, breathing, speaking, and, most of all, dreaming, were brought into relationship with the objective material of closely argued texts which themselves raised fundamental issues about our lives and our world. Here was a twentieth century man (apparently, but sometimes he wrote as if Neanderthal, and sometimes from a century far into the future) who could not allow any moment to escape the rigour of his attention and the work of his pen. I wondered what it must be like to live with him, and he allowed us to glimpse even at that: “Dad’s historical holies” has been the affectionate and impatient attitude of the family. (p. )

Perhaps Sacred Hunger is the most outrageous piece in the book, remaining unpublished for several years, because sensed as blasphemous? Why? It emerges, as Ted Hughes remarks about David’s lectures (2), “from real work & not riffling through the card index” (p. ): dreams of eating flesh, thirty years sharing the Eucharist and then absorbing four books, all concerned with hunger and suffering and particularly with insatiability, leading to the modern hunger for unending growth. At the heart of the paper is a concern with time, not only time passing but metaphysical time, fulfilment in time and promise, also fulfilled and unfulfilled. Further, basing himself upon Whitehead, Holt introduces the absolutely critical contradiction that science works though ultimately we do not understand why (see p. ) and connects this with a consumerism which is designed to be unsatisfying.

In some ways, this is a central theme. It concerns how christianity separates humanity from matter. There is an act, a deed of violence implicit in that separation which we, christians and non-christians, but for critically different reasons (my italics) are finding it difficult to own (p. ). Holt develops his thinking: the Holy Spirit [the Third Person of the christian Trinity] is at work in the financial markets of the world and in our manufactures, in the research and development laboratories which create new appetites and jobs as well as the goods with which to feed these appetites and justify these jobs. It is also lodged in our food chain, in the whole order of interdependencies of which hunger makes us part (pp , my paraphrase).

But the breadth and depth of his thinking is evident in his discussion, in Sacred Hunger, of Chris Knight’s book Blood Relations: Menstruation and the origin of culture (3). Here the talk really comes together. We share David’s excitement, as sex and time are here brought into relationship, and can only wonder at his interweaving of history and ethno-ontology (p. ). The world in which we live, it is clear, is not given as an objective absolute but entirely dependent upon the form in which we receive it through our cultures and traditions. This understanding leads us directly to David’s conclusions and my deep involvement, as a rabbi, with them and with him.

Christianity is right to insist that the importance of that [Christ] event cannot be exaggerated and that it effects the whole world, whether the world call itself christian or not. It is wrong in understanding that event as a redemption, a saving, of the world. On the contrary, christianity has made it possible for humanity drastically to accelerate the destruction of the world.

His final introductory extract (page : Fresh Argument) offers a serious challenge to our respons-ability for the future, and a call to which I felt drawn to respond: “I am asking for help with that argument…To answer that call, christians are going to have to admit that we got it wrong, non christians that we are living off a christian secret that we do not understand”.

It is this recognition that religious and cultural traditions are far more potent in our modern world than we acknowledge that has made me so sure of the long-lasting value of David’s life work. In the political maelstrom of the Middle East, for example, Jerusalem has been for over fifty years central in the dispute, but only in the breakdown of the most recent talks did it become apparent that, quite beyond the understanding of the political leadership, the place of the Temple Mount itself has a continuing significance which overcomes political rationality. There, Jew, Christian, Moslem are joined in bloody re-enactment of ancient rivalries which we may well only be able to break with the help of a global religious forum, and, maybe, the telling of dreams.

David Holt helps us see why this may be so. But he does more: he shows us the power of the individual whose personal work can also bring about redemption. We can make a difference and we do have, as he puts it, respons-ability for the future.

As a Jew, I am challenged by David’s writing to acknowledge the negative side of Jewish exclusivity and chosen-ness, the emphasis on the family which has kept others apart. I need to re-examine our understandable sense of victimisation, our attitude to conversion and to Jesus, whom Buber called “my great brother”. But given the extraordinary strength of the synchronistic happenings which have entered into our relationship, I need also to ask: How can this be, what is the mechanism producing such synchronistic events? David’s work leads us to ask whether we do not, in fact, phrase the question falsely. We might rather ask: how can it not be?

The question is, most centrally, how it is that we are not constantly overwhelmed by the layers of meaning and richness that are potentially present at every moment. In order to function, we narrow our focus. As Koestler writes:

our main sense organs are like narrow slits which admit only a very narrow frequency-range of electro-magnetic and sound waves. But even the amount that does get through these narrow slits is too much. Life would be impossible if we were to pay attention to the millions of stimuli bombarding our senses, what William James called ‘the blooming, buzzing multitude of sensations’. (4).

David demonstrates how our fear of madness and psychosis closes to us aspects of our experience, which we must own if we are not to imperil our world. One of my early teachers suggested that religions exist not, as we may believe, to open us up to the wonders of God and the mysteries of religion, but rather, to ensure that we are not overwhelmed by them. By complete chance – is it? really? – I have just come across a quote from Jung that “the Church serves as a fortress to protect us against God and his Spirit.” (5)

Kammerer, (quoted by Koestler), whose life was spent investigating the phenomenon of synchronicity put it very clearly:

The recurrence of identical or similar data in contiguous areas of space or time is a simple empirical fact which has to be accepted and which cannot be explained by coincidence or rather, which makes coincidence rule to such an extent that the concept of coincidence is itself negated. (6)

David Holt’s extraordinary work allows us to observe what happens when the filter is opened up a little more fully than most of us dare, so that a much wider range of data can be taken into account. The result is both a deeper and broader analysis of personal, social, political and religious experience. More than anything else, David’s work is founded in careful attention to dreams, even publishing his own, and encouraging the rest of us to do the same (7). How deeply that in itself links with my Jewish tradition and soul! How different our political and religious worlds would appear, were that to take place! What themes would then emerge into the public realm, what opportunities would develop to handle our widespread concerns and underlying anxieties? David encourages us towards a more general realisation that dreams provide a major contribution for human communication (8). Perhaps, as David would say, we would be more able to get the feeling right. In the meantime, we have The Clermont Story as a hint of what is possible and essential.

A final thoughtful and necessary response from Sacred Hunger to those terrorist attacks on New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania:

A word also about the feeling tone of what I am going to be saying. It is pessimistic……..The twentieth century has had and continues to have its catastrophes. They will continue and they will get worse.

But people will survive and some sort of world order will survive. Even though it is in a sense too late, it is nevertheless worth trying to understand what we are caught in. Because we will be able to respond to catastrophe…Our response to catastrophe can be more or less effective, more or less humane, more or less cruel. Present understanding will make a difference to future catastrophe.(p. )

Jeffrey Newman September 2001


1. Murray Stein, President of the International Association of Analytical Psychology (the IAAP, a Jungian grouping) writing in response to phone calls, faxes and emails from all over the world.

2. Theatre and Behaviour: Hawkwood Papers 1979-1986 ISBN 0 9512174 0 2. 1987

3. Published by Yale, 1991

4. Koestler, A. The Roots of Coincidence, London Hutchinson 1972

5. C.G.Jung CW 18 par. 1534, quoted in Giegerich,W.The Soul’s Logical Life (Frankfurt Peter Lang 1998), p.20

6. Kammerer, P. Das Gesetz der Serie (Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, Stuttgart-Berlin 1919) p. 93 quoted in Koestler op. cit. p. 86

7. Holt, D. Eventful Responsability (Validthod, Oxford, 1999).
Sonu Shamdasani writes, in his introduction: “In the nineteenth century works on philosophy, physiology and psychology of dreams it was commonplace for authors to use their own dreams as a basis for their explorations and to publish them. In this regard, Sigmund Freud’s reliance on his own dreams in The Interpretation of Dreams followed a well-established genre. At the same time [this work ]marked the close of this genre, whose end it hastened. With the rise of the conception of dreams as disclosive of the hidden secrets of the personality, psychologists became increasingly reluctant to publish or publicly present their dreams, except, that is, in a disguised form. [This] is the only publication of a dream book by a psychotherapist or psychologist that I have come across.”

8. David’s own introduction to his dreambook gives the opportunity for research into the activity of dreaming as his principal justification and adds: “one of the most urgent challenges to our imagination today is how to relate new understanding of our evolutionary inheritance with the eventfulness of everyday. If people will publish their dreams the whole climate of social imagination would change for good”.


Caught between History and Nature


Responsibility Gone Missing

I’m caught in this story which I’ve got to work out. Like a problem. A problem story.

The first Part of this book is a retrospect of the fifty two years during which the story has been with me. The second Part brings together six of the so to say professional papers in which I have reflected on the story and its possible implications. Taken together the two Parts constitute both autobiography and intellectual endeavour.

The intention is to start fresh argument between christian and non christian.

According to my story, something has gone missing between christian and non christian. There’s a responsibility which falls into a hiatus. It is about time. To take it up christian and non christian have to enquire together into their differences.

So in telling my story, I’m going to play with the words responsible, responsibility, to get them turning on (not in) time. Onto past, onto future. We say “You are responsible for it”, meaning that it is your doing, perhaps with a sense of fault, perhaps with a sense of achievement. And we say “You are responsible for it”, meaning that you have to do something about it, it is up to you to respond, to make a response, with a hint that it had better be effective or you’ll be in trouble. I want to keep reminding us of both timings.

Which is why I shall occasionally spell the word with an ‘a’, as in my subtitle. Spelt as responsibility, the word tends to emphasise the past. Spelt as responsability it emphasises more the future, an ability to respond to what’s now.

In this play on responsibility I am trying to make what I believe to be a very important point about time: that the present is when beginning and ending come together. The present is constantly a beginning as well as an ending, an ending as well as a beginning. Now is all the time we ever have. Without it, there is no future, no past. ‘Now’ is time making itself felt as responsibility.

The ‘when’ of death makes the point well, and in doing so explains my title for this first Part. Aged seventy five, I think often of when my death is to be. In my teens – I was thirteen in 1939 – we were being taught that we were already of an age to kill and to be killed. How do we correlate the ‘when’ of such different kinds of death?

We take time into our keeping. We assume, or presume, responsibility for time. And in doing so we separate history from nature.

It is this assumption or presumption of responsibility which is getting lost in the hiatus between christian and non christian. Because, and here I want to remind readers of my stammer, it feels TOO BIG.

My story is heavy with that too big. For instance, I shall be speaking of a peculiarly christian responsibility, a christian responsability for the future that requires us to take into account christian error. The feeling of what I have to say here can come across as excessive, absurdly exaggerated, better left unspoken.

Please allow for this. My argument depends on it. It is not something to be got rid of in the interests of simplicity or clarity. It is what being responsible for time feels like.



The Clermont story originates in a dream which I had in the early spring of 1948. Clermont is a town in central France, where I had spent a week in the previous summer. The love affair which took me there had subsequently ended, and the ending precipitated my going into analysis. I was also reading history at the university at the time, and my imagination was caught by the fact that the first crusade had been preached by Pope Urban II at the Council of Clermont in 1095. My story originated in this coincidence of place.

The dream came in the night of February 27, 1948, early in my psychoanalysis with Irene de Castillejo, a Jungian analyst practising in London. Thus:

A story which I am telling second hand.

I have shown to the person to whom I am telling it a plan of the story. A certain number of circles dissected by a straight line. Not certain whether the line went through middle of the circles. The line is marked with segments showing two days of the week (?Tuesday and Thursday).


The story: a girl and I have been living together in some open country, say South African veldt. We have been living together since birth or since extreme youth. My sex early on seems vague – the boy says to me cynically:

“Anyway, I’ll be seeing you more and more with less and less clothes on”.

I chide him for this.

A lot of old women in the tribe begin to get suspicious of our “goings on”. One night we ride out into the veldt, turn our horses loose to graze, and then walk into some trap set by all these women.

I am now male definitely. This trap is very sad. We were living beautifully and then all is wrecked by these spiteful hags, two of the ugliest of whom are to be sort of chief judges.

Girl and I are left alone – she now seems to be on the side of these hags.We are inside a tent. In order to lull her suspicions so as to escape, I – or another older man who may be Father – talks.

He says after something else:

“In that case, O is the most important vowel, letter”, and later says many words with O in them. Then “Move”.

At this, I catch the girl by her throat and bend her head back to the ground so that she cannot speak while I – or other man – escape.

But I, or he, only gets a short start, and when I am caught and brought back the girl is definitely hostile and I fear she may hurt me in some way.Quote close

When I told Irene the dream she responded by asking me to say some words with ‘o’ in the middle of them, and as I said them she wrote them down. At first, none came. Then, love. Another long wait, with no words coming to mind. Then, more easily, many more, of which I can now remember pool, dove, rock, blood, as well as the word from the dream, move. Irene gave me the sheet of paper on which she had written the words, and told me to go away and write a story, using them in that order, with some sense of the time which had elapsed between my saying them.

So I wrote the Clermont story. Here it is.

The scene was set in a mood of expectancy. Western Europe is resting after the years of attack and threat from the men of the north, resting and gathering its strength. Its feeling, in the union of mind and heart, is christian. The building of churches and cathedrals bears witness to a faith which had come, and conquered, from another quarter.
Outside Clermont lived a farming family, with the three sons that go with fairy stories. Their christian faith is simple, immediate, unquestioned. The gathering of the great Council of the Church is an event of excitement. With their neighbours, the whole family went to the field outside the eastern gate where the Pope was to speak.
Into the silence of an expectancy which by that time has become almost unbearable – the seconds long wait for my first word with ‘o’ – fall the words which tell of the Holy Places in the hands of non-believers, the sufferings of the christians in the east, and the call to crusade, to bear witness in arms to your love of Christ.
Your love of Christ: that word love all round the three sons as they walked home. Suddenly, the world is filled with new meaning, a meaning that calls them from the fields and animals to fight. They are carried on the word. It envelops them.
But only the two eldest can go. The third must stay at home to work the farm, to care for the parents. The pain of that staying: its bitterness – there was much of that in my story.
Now the time is later, high summer a year or two after. The boy is working in the fields. The heat is intense. He thirsts, and thirsting goes down the sloping field to a corner where there is a pool. He stoops to drink, and sees coming to meet his mouth the face and mouth of a girl.
He is as if transfixed. Love turns round inside him. Christ is forgotten. All that he had learned to feel for Christ is turned to the girl. Love is here: no need to journey to the east, to war, to prove his love. The proving is here, in his thirst and what he is to do with it in the presence of that face which will be broken and vanish if his own lips once touch and break the surface of the water to quench its raging.
The story stayed for a long time with that arrest of all movement as the boy kneels by the pool, refusing in his love to quench a thirst born of his work in the fields. Tension builds in the surrounding fields and mountains. The noonday silence continues, unnaturally, into a more terrible silence of afternoon, of evening on which the sun does not seem to set. The stillness is absolute, awful, as if nothing will ever move again.
It is broken suddenly. So suddenly that it all seems to be done in a moment, so quick it might never have happened. The beating of wings, a dove settles out of nowhere on the boy’s shoulders as he kneels. He sees it reflected in the pool, reaches up to seize it, to tear it, to try to slake his thirst in its blood. As the bird is torn, and the blood runs in the boy’s mouth, the landscape is wholly changed. The green is gone out of it. There are stones, rocks, stunted vegetation, a near desert land. But the girl is there, on the face of the earth, still in some way beyond the boy’s reach (is it she or he who is bound to a rock?), yet free to move with a volition of her own, no longer caught in reflection.Quote close

When she heard the story, Irene’s response was to lend me a typescript of an early English translation of Jung’s Eranos lecture on the Trinity. From what I have learned since about interpretation and transference in analysis, it is sobering to think how much has flowed from that ‘interpretation’.

Together, the dream and the story and the interpretation set me an agenda. First, there was childhood, the dawn of sexuality, entrapment, the father telling about words, a girl caught by her throat so that she cannot speak. Then, history. The alternative of christian crusade or the fields to be worked, merging into myth or fairy story, the timeless arrest at the pool, the coming of the dove, the killing and drinking of blood, the landscape changed and the girl in the flesh.

Perhaps it is better to think of it as two agendas: to find the meaning of sex, and to find the meaning of history. How they have come together and worked through each other is in a way the story of my life. Now that that life is drawing to a close it is time to reflect on what has been learned. It may not be the last word, but death surely has something conclusive to say about the meaning of both sex and history.

But to get the feeling right, two words have to be emphasised at the start: isolation, and inflation. The Clermont story has left me with the thought that I have seen, and am therefore in some way responsible for, an epochal development in the history of christianity which is not spoken of in the history books. I have witnessed, and in some sense taken part in, the killing of the Third Person of the christian Trinity, and the ingestion of its blood into the life of humanity.

This thought isolates, and, in Jung’s sense of the word, inflates. The isolation may not need much emphasis. The inflation does, the feel of being special, chosen. It comes close to madness. Psychic inflation of this kind feeds on isolation. It makes a virtue of it. It disables witness, converting it into something more like guilt, guilt to be treasured as much as suffered.

My life has had to deal with both the isolation and the inflation. This book is perhaps a last attempt to do so, to bear witness rather than treasure guilt. In which I need help.


Rudery and Mystery

Irene’s interpretation of my Clermont story directed me to the theology and statecraft of Ancient Egypt. In his essay on the Trinity, Jung refers to pre-christian trinitarian beliefs in Egypt, and what he wrote sent me to read more widely on the subject. What I found was explicit reference to the penis, in the myth of Isis and Osiris, and in masturbation as the act of creation.

As a result my somewhat furtive interest in the theology of the christian Trinity (I had been brought up as a self conscious Unitarian) was sexualised. At the time I was reading St Augustine as my special subject in the Modern History school at Oxford, having been excited by R G Collingwood’s discussion of the Trinity in his Essay on Metaphysics. Intellectually I was deeply intrigued, and Augustine’s interest in sexuality added its spice. But the explicitness of the penis in Egyptian theology made it possible for me to imagine connections between my theological reading and sexuality (masturbation, most immediately) of a kind that combined mystery with rudery.

This connection has been with me ever since, and shows no signs of losing its energy as I grow towards death. On the contrary.

Its immediate effect on the Clermont story was to get me wondering about the dove. I was familiar with the dove as image of the Holy Ghost, the Third Person of the Trinity. I read Charles Williams’ book The Descent of the Dove. But though it never seemed to be mentioned in the literature, I was constantly making rude connections between the dove and the Holy Ghost by whose power Mary had become pregnant with Jesus. Were they one and the same? If so, how could one imagine that identity? If not, then how to imagine their difference, and why wasn’t more made of that difference in the teachings of the church? And, insistently, what does this all have to do with the penis?

Thoughts like these went off in many directions. My published dreams give some idea of where. Here I pick out just one of the themes that caught my attention: the role of the penis between before and after.

The Holy Ghost that comes down on Mary so that she becomes pregnant is before Jesus is born. The Holy Ghost that comes down at Pentecost is after Jesus has died. It has something to do with his being Risen. As Jesus has said while alive, first he has to die and return to the Father. Only then can the Holy Ghost come as comforter to the world.

What happens to our understanding of the Holy Ghost if we are so rude as to relate penis to trinitarian theology?

It is the question that started me wondering about what has perhaps been the chief preoccupation of my life, the connection between sex and time. Father, son, and penis. Does sexuality simply pass through time from the father’s “before” to the son’s “after”? Or does sexuality remind us, rudely, that we have a job to do in keeping time?

Freud got us thinking about it in terms of the son killing the father. Christian theology talks of the father so loving the world that he wills the death of his son. Suppose both are wrong. Suppose that what really happens is that the penis reminds both father and son that time is given into their keeping, that between them they are responsible for keeping the present present.

Formulations like that have come much later. But they started with the dove at Clermont. The Third Person of the Trinity as a dove. How is power of the kind associated with the Holy Ghost represented by a dove? There are many answers in the history of iconography. But when imagination floods with the killing and tearing and bleeding and drinking, and then with the compulsions of masturbation, the dove opens its wings into darkness and power of a ruder kind.


Flailing and Flaying

The Clermont story contrasts the fighting appeal of crusade with the need to work the farm. For the stay at home there is no glory, no danger, no bloodshed. Not until the dove is killed.

Dreams that followed on the writing of Clermont began to change that simple contrast. Dreams associated in various ways with corn.

From the beginning, “to work the farm” meant labour, the labour of putting one’s self into the land, the body tired, exhausted, hurting. Then there were dreams of corn, and with them the thought that agriculture could be in its place as violent as any crusade. Seed that had to die so that corn can come. The contrast between the scattering of seed and the gathering of corn, and the necessary time between.

But perhaps the crucial idea in opening up the essential violence of agriculture was of how the corn is treated so that it may become food.

This came through another dream, six months after Clermont was written. (The full text can be found in my dream book, October 8, 1948.) This was of a working man, a railway porter, who gets caught up in a machine that he is supposed to be using. As a result his body is “flailed”, like corn is flailed so as to separate the grain from husk and straw. In the dream there is confusion between the verb to flail and the verb to flay. Is his body perhaps also being flayed? Later in the dream “I find myself thinking of the Crucifixion of Christ. I begin to understand – what was important was the complete fear of NOTHINGNESS, of non being, of utter non existence, a gaping VOID – Christ had faced that fear in utter solitariness and come through”.

Working with that dream I found that the turning of corn into food became associated with acts of unexpected, appalling, pornographic, violence inflicted on the human body, a body flailed to pulp, a body flayed alive.

It was only gradually that I realised what was happening. In my imagining of the christian story another picture was appearing alongside, or perhaps instead of, the dying body nailed to a cross: a body kept wildly in movement, a body skinned, a flailing that was also a flaying, a flaying that was also a flailing.

Within the Clermont story I began to feel connections between the tiredness, exhaustion, hurt of the boy working the farm, and the tearing of that flesh carried on the beating of wings. And so another story came.

Christ is walking alone in a land which is between desert and cultivation. It is farm land, working land, in danger of wilderness but responsive to man’s labour, land in which people can settle and make a living so long as they do not take it for granted. As he looks round him, he sees fields and animals and plants which bear witness to human labour, and also hills, rocks, birds, clouds, which owe nothing except their being seen to man.
He is praying to the father. In prayer, the will of the father is being made known, the will that intends Calvary. As he prays, tension is generated within the landscape round him, tension similar to that by the pool at Clermont.
How to describe that tension? The air was full of it. An at-tension held between water and clouds, stones and earth, and moving from them to inform plants and animals. How do clouds and rivers, stones, plants, animals, attend to each other in the presence of a humanity which they must suffer but cannot comprehend?
Out of that at-tension a cry goes forth. It is like a whisper, a murmuring, all but inaudible. And yet it pierces the ears. Like one of those whistles which dogs can hear, but humans not. A mute, inanimate cry from the fields and the rocks and the hills, from the movement of the waters and from the stillness of the sky: “For the love of God, don’t do this thing to us”. A cry from inanimate creation to the son of man not to go up to Jerusalem, not to set in train the sequence of events which would lead to crucifixion, resurrection, Pentecost.Quote close

I was beginning to realise that there is a difference between nature and history which is in some way my responsibility.


Tudor sexuality

The immediate reasons that took me to baptism and confirmation in my early thirties had to do with marriage and the birth of my first two children. But it was history that prepared the ground and made those reasons compelling.

Certain parallels, or suggestions of common themes, between the origin of the Anglican church in Tudor England and the early days of christianity had occurred to me while reading history at Oxford during those first months as the Clermont story began to do its work. A virgin played an important part in both. There were connections between sexuality, killing and the begetting of a son. The names Elizabeth and Mary recurred, though their roles were different. There were two Marys, one virgin and barren, the other mother of kings. But the mother had her head severed from her body by orders of the barren virgin.

For the professional historian such parallels carry no weight. They are fancies. For someone beginning to sense a connection between sexuality and time, they were rudely, vulgarly, even obscenely, teasing. They made the origins of the Anglican church much, very much, more interesting. The burning of heretics and the politics of inheritance could be read about while anticipating masturbation. A church that knew about the pornographic violence perpetrated by catholic on protestant, by protestant on catholic, made possible, invited even, obscene thoughts about that original foundation fifteen hundred years earlier.

In being both catholic and protestant the Anglican church turned between past and future. So if as the established church it claimed respectability (a respectability that had once excluded my grandfather from the pulpit of Liverpool cathedral) it was also shocking, historically shocking. The sense of history as shocking was growing, and once again, entwined with family. Baptism and confirmation were a response to that entwining, a stepping into history to acknowledge the presence of sexuality and killing in the passing on of political authority, social cohesion, and religious faith.



When I was thirty two, in 1958, my wife suffered a massive stroke while we were on holiday in Italy. The initial prognosis was that she would not speak again, and would not be able to walk. The outcome was very much better. Within weeks she was talking, oddly but engagingly, and walking with a bad limp, not unlike the roll of a sailor. Eight years later we divorced.

Susan’s stroke is from many points of view the defining moment of my life. It flows into everything that has happened and been done by me since. Its effect on the working out of the Clermont story was momentous. It broke my understanding of personality.

After some months of dramatic and, given the initial prognosis, almost miraculous recovery, the process of rehabilitation and adjustment became steadier. It was some time during those months that I said to myself, in a moment of angry despair, “I shall never believe in personality again”. What I was trying to recognise and establish in myself and vis a vis the world was a sense that in order to live with what had happened, to adapt, I had to stop pretending that there was something called personality that could be relied upon.

This conviction, born of an at times murderous rage, got me interested in the brain, its part in the operation of body and mind, its evolution. Also, perhaps it was here that my interest in theatre began to take hold. And in relation to the Clermont story it made possible an altogether new kind of interest in the Trinity.

Theology speaks of the three Persons of the Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. I had learned that the word Person was from the Latin translation of the Greek υποστασισ, which meant something very different to our understanding of person. And I had learned that the translation between the two languages had led to centuries of misunderstanding, debate, and differing illumination. But how did all this relate to the identity of the dove at Clermont? Did my “I shall never believe in personality again” help in understanding the role of the Third Person of the Trinity?

My response to Susan’s stroke left me with an obstinate conviction that personality was something essentially experimental. Obstinate because it belonged with survival, my own survival, Susan’s survival, the survival of those who depended on us. In order to survive I had to learn to make do with personality as something essentially experimental. My understanding of the Clermont dove began to be affected by that making do with the essentially experimental, a making do that could sometimes feel like murderous rage.


Zurich and the Theatricality of Being

Such was the state of the Clermont story in April 1962, when I was confirmed into the Anglican Church by the Bishop of London in the crypt of St Paul’s Cathedral. A month later I began my four years of study at the C G Jung Institute in Zurich.

During those years I found myself in a community sympathetic to Clermont, in that Jung’s engagement with christianity, particularly in his alchemical works, seemed to be within the same matrix of faith and doubt. It was after all his Essay on the Trinity which had been offered me as interpretation of the story back in 1948.

But I also found myself learning a lot more about the psychotic and hysteric modalities of my own being.

By psychotic I mean a shattering and shivering of the mind which is also an emptying out, an evacuation. Psychosis allows something alien to take over the mind. It shows on the face as a fixedness giving way to something secret. Faced by the incomprehensible the mind allows the alien to enter in. It is crazed. It is also, to use a term from the second world war made familiar to me in my dreams, its own fifth column.

By hysteric I mean the use of pretence in dealing with the unmanageable. Hysteria is responsible in the literal sense of being a response to something out there. It is irresponsible in using make believe as a way of avoiding what we can’t manage. It is clever, but clever in a way that may well not be right.

Played across each other, the psychotic and the hysteric can generate their own way of being. In Zurich I began to realise how attractive this way of being could be for me. One of my two analysts interpreted Clermont as evidence of this, and nothing more. I was not convinced.

But there was more to come. In 1964 and 1965 I began to put my experience of personality as essentially experimental in what I now believe to be its proper context: the theatricality of the world. Or, perhaps better, the theatricality of being.

The thesis with which I graduated in February 1966 was titled “Persona and Actor”. My Introduction read as follows.

One of my first control analysands was a young woman whose initial dream featured an actress preparing to play the part of Ophelia. This acting theme recurred in her dreams. Sometimes she was playing the wrong role: sometimes there was no audience, or she was playing before the wrong audience. In the thirty first analytical hour she produced a dream in which she was sitting talking with a man about the ‘hypokrites’. She explained that by this she means the Greek word, which she remembered learning at school meant actor and did not then have its modern meaning of ‘scheinheilig’. She was sufficiently impressed by the dream to look up the etymology of the word, which was further discussed in the next hour.

This word hypokrites focussed my attention on the extent to which ‘play acting’ characterised the analysand’s attitude to the therapeutic situation, and also to her life as a whole. Once I had recognised this factor in the analysis, I came quickly to feel that I could not understand what was going on unless I learned more of the wider significance of acting in the traditional theatre. The analysand shortly afterwards saw the film version of Genet’s ‘Le Balcon’. She was impressed by it, and promised to write me a critique of the film. This she did, but destroyed it before showing it to me.

This event determined me to read more widely round what might be called the ‘philosophy of the theatre’. I turned to Jung’s works to read all he had to say on the persona, but found little that seemed to apply to my analysand. It seemed to me then that Jung’s descriptions of the persona were concerned with social and professional ‘roles’, but not directly with what an actor did and was, nor with the more mysterious link between actor and audience on one side, and actor and the plot of the play on the other. In thinking about my analysand it seemed to me that this three cornered relationship, actor, plot or action, and audience, was the necessary frame of reference within which to understand what was going on in the analysis. In our case we had the actor in the person of the analysand, and the audience in the analyst. But that which should give meaning to our coming together, the plot, was undefined; not merely undefined, but concealed with a sort of natural and instinctive skill which I came to believe had something to do with the inherent nature of the actor.

It was at this time, in the summer of 1964, that the Zürich Schauspielhaus produced the two Parts of Shakespeare’s Henry IV. These two plays culminate in the famous Rejection Scene, in which the newly crowned young King banishes Falstaff, the boon companion of his youth. There is something in this dramatic situation which reminds us irresistibly of Jung’s definitions of the persona, in terms of social and professional roles. The young King has quite literally assumed a new role and the dramatic effect of the scene depends on the consequences which that role brings with it.

I decided therefore to make a study in depth of this particular dramatic situation, to see what it might have to teach me about the nature of acting. I believe that this scene has proved a happy choice, because in it we have ‘acting’ on two levels. There is the theatrical level, on which the young King is confronted with one of the most ambiguous and many layered characters of European drama, Falstaff; and there is the level within the play, in which a prince assumes the persona of king, a level to which Jung’s various definitions of persona apply. It has therefore given me an opportunity to consider the persona against a very rich theatrical background, a background that has convinced me that ‘acting’ means much more than the limited significance that Jung attributed to the persona.

The shape of the thesis derives from its origin. The first Part is a detailed study of the dramatic movement that culminates in the Rejection Scene. My aim in this first Part is to define the two chief protagonists in that scene, King and Falstaff, by answering the questions: what is being en-acted? For whom is it being en-acted? What is the nature of the relation that links actor, audience and action? In the second Part I draw conclusions as to the nature of acting from the analysis in depth of the dramatic situation made in the first Part, and relate those conclusions to what Jung has to say about the persona.Quote close

Personality as something I could no longer believe in was making room for personality as experimental. And together with this, both demanding and sustaining the experiment, realisation of the world as en-actment.

This was the beginning of an interest in theatre which has been central to my clinical practice for thirty years and more, an interest which has I believe helped me in responding to the psychotic and hysteric modalities of my own being.

The Clermont story got taken up into this new interest in the theatricality of being. Drama, δρωμενον, the thing done: the world as story to be enacted. Clermont assumed christian responsibility for that enactment but continued the story beyond that told in church.

I look now at the six papers, covering the years from 1974 to 1994, which are reprinted here as Part II. What do they have to say about the continuation of the Clermont story?


First Paper – the Yes and the No of the Two Virgins

1974: Jung and Marx: alchemy, christianity, and the work against nature.

Is capitalism the result of the killing of the Clermont dove and the drinking of its blood? Or, with less inflationary grandiosity, is the Clermont story one young man’s attempt to come to terms with his capitalist family of origin?

I had been introduced to Marxist understanding of the meaning of history in the navy in 1944, when living in cramped quarters with men for whom the name Holt was synonymous with capital. Reading history at Oxford after the war I had as one of my tutors Christopher Hill, with whom we argued about Marxist interpretations of the 17th century and the English civil war. Christopher and I both stammered, though his was more on the in breath than mine, or so I remember it. I could feel very close to him. Marxism at Balliol helped me with the marxism I had been exposed to in the bowels of an escort carrier. But the naval experience had given me what I can call a family interest in marxism which developed across the argument with Christopher.

This family interest was picked up in my Jungian analysis, in particular by the historical chapters in Jung’s book on Psychological Types. Jung’s distinction between extraversion and introversion, and his reading of that distinction in philosophy, theology, aesthetics, became a two way channel between family stuff, in particular the turbulence of sexuality, and the search for meaning in history. In this paper, first read in 1974, I tried to say something in public about this two way channelling.

But in preparing the paper something occurred which was to open the Clermont story into sexuality in a new way. It was about a week before I was due to speak, and I was stuck as to how to bring the paper to the conclusion it was reaching for. My wife and I were at a concert. I was thinking about the work against nature rather than listening to the music. And suddenly I knew that I had to speak of two virgins, and of the contrast between them.

What I’d got stuck in was the ‘space between creator and virgin’. My paper was using the idea of such a space as a way into the work against nature, to stimulate both extraverted, marxist, and introverted, jungian, movements of the imagination. I was trying to create a sense of nature becoming aware of what it means to be used for a purpose outside itself. To do so, I was comparing the history of economics with theologies of creation, and coming close to possibly psychotic confusions of sexuality and hunger.

It was somewhere there that I got stuck. What then came was a sense of choice. There was a choice that could be made, a choice inherent in what I had been calling the space between creator and virgin. The virgin could say yes or say no. The virgin could be inquisitive as to what the creator was up to, and this inquisitiveness might compel creation to change direction.

The virgin as inquisitive. Though I did not realise it at the time, this new sense of the virgin as inquisitive changed what I think of as the purchase of the Clermont story on my life. The hold that the Clermont story has over me was reformulated. The change of state between the girl in the pool and the girl on the face of the earth was reminding me of another time, a time when the virgin could have chosen to say no, so that Gabriel would have had to contain his message, or, like Onan before him, spill his seed on the ground.

Ideas such as these do not have a place in our history books. They are both mystical and vulgar. Yet if we are indeed caught in a work against nature they may be responsible in ways we don’t yet understand. They allow thirst and hunger and sexuality to play across each other as we try to find our place in creation. As I put it in the 1974 paper, they can help us realise how christianity has damaged matter, and how the human psyche moves spontaneously to make good that damage.


Second Paper – Sado-masochism and the Peculiar Numinosity of Machines

1976 – untitled

This paper has not been published before. I came across it while clearing out old files, in the summer of 2000, when the self styled “fuel protests” were all but bringing the country to a stand still. Its argument seemed immediately relevant to the schizophrenic mood of the time.

It appears to be written for a talk I was to give at one of our Jung weekends at Hawkwood College, in 1976. It seems to be unfinished, and I have no recollection of what happened to it. But perhaps it was as a result of that weekend, probably with Molly Tuby and Niel Micklem, and perhaps others, that we began to prepare ourselves for that unforgettable occasion in 1980 when we enacted the illustrations from Michael Maier’s alchemical text “Atalanta Fugiens”.

I find it interesting as a reminder of how my thinking was developing around the age of fifty. It develops the argument of the Jung Marx paper with reference to Lévi Strauss’s La Pensée Sauvage, and Peter Berger’s three books The Social Construction of Reality, The Social Reality of Religion, and The Rediscovery of the Supernatural. And it does so by including verbatim transcripts of six of my dreams from 1956, 1957, 1961 and 1962.

But with the self strangulation of those fuel protests in mind, it is the sado-masochistic theme which causes me to publish it now. The term is Berger’s, “emphatically not to be understood in Freudian or other psychoanalytic terms”. His use derives directly from Sartre and through Sartre (though he does not make this explicit) from writers such as Heidegger, Husserl, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Marx and Hegel, and he relates it in particular to what he calls “the interpretations of last resort”.

By which he means the problem of how to justify the ways of God to man (which can include the denial of God’s existence), and he emphasises that in this underlying and all embracing problem of theodicy (which surely is what Clermont is about) the sado-masochistic attitude “is one of the persistent factors of irrationality, no matter what degree of rationality may be attained in various efforts to solve the problem theoretically”.

In my paper, I relate it to my dreams, and through them to traffic jams, the breakdown of the marriage between Christ and His Church, the nerve centre of a sex organ that is neither, or both, male nor/and female, the christian devil, the turn between the outside and inside of our hands, and the peculiar numinosity of machines.


Third Paper – Repetition of Repeated Reversal

Jung and the Third Person, 1981.

This paper was an opportunity to get my confused ideas about the Trinity into some kind of order. In doing so I had to think a lot about time. The result was to prepare me to talk more confidently, more publicly, about the Clermont story.

In reading what I say in it about extraversion and introversion (once again, essential in my attempts to apply Jung’s psychology to the world I find myself engaged in) it is important to dwell on that startling conjunction of mystical theology of creation with the bitter sense of dishonouring.

The two women involved on that occasion were both within what I thought of as my working family. My sense of being caught within, and in some way responsible for, the scene where such dishonouring could take place, was insistent. It is still with me. And it was this intimately familial and personal discomfort, or even shame, that illuminated, and was in its turn illuminated by, a moment in the history of Jewish mystical theology.

To understand how this affected my thinking about time it is necessary to refer to a dream of mine. It is the dream which got me thinking about extraversion and introversion in relation to creation, to the question: how is it that the world is as it is?

April 10, 1954
Within the dream, a dream within the dream. And this inner dream is a long murder story whose function is to persuade the dreamer that he is a murderer in imminent risk of being discovered.

I’d had this dream untold times before. It is indeed at the root of my worry and fear of life. But this time I ‘alter’ it to show that its grip on me is gone. It is as if at the crucial moment which contains the whole point of this story, my mind turns and says ‘No, this is not real for me’, and a clenched hand is unclenched.

As a result of this unclenching I see a great design, a world picture. It is made up of an intricate arrangement of an endlessly repeated theme. This theme is of a tree growing in a formal courtyard at the top of a flight of steps. These steps lead down to a square pool of water. Although the water is still, there is immense energy generated within the pool. Between the tree and the pool there flows a narrow red stream, though it is not clear in which direction, and this stream is the life of man. This theme of the tree and the pool is repeated an infinite number of times. It is as if everyone who had ever lived spent his life painting one such tree/pool picture. All the separate pictures are arranged together to form part of a great tree, but I see that in one of them ‘the direction is reversed’. This means that in one of them the direction of flow of this red stream between the tree and pool is reversed, and this reversal of direction ‘spoils’ the whole picture, and seeing it I feel an indescribable horror; it has something to do with a reversal of direction in masturbation, which is connected with the locking of my stutter.Quote close

In thinking about the Clermont story that vision of reversal of direction, and the indescribable horror that went with it, has been a constant since 1954. The association with masturbation and with stutter continues to affect me. If I have managed to humanise some of the psychotic and hysteric potential in the Clermont story it is largely due to that dream. Because it started that parting of the mind that can allow for creation, a parting that works with both the psychotic and the hysteric.

In Jung and the Third Person I talk about that from various points of view. In relation to the Clermont story it is the argument about time that matters.

Clermont left me with questions about the role of the penis between before and after. What is common to father and son questions time. Between the generations there is an Other, common to both yet timed differently, timed in a way that somehow synchronises before and after. This Other questions our understanding of time. It takes the words ‘from’ and ‘to’ in the sentence “from generation to generation”, and turns them into a momentous and in ways unbearable question.

This “questioning time” had seemed so peculiar, so unrecognisable, to the people with whom I had tried to talk about it, that I had done little with it. Working on Jung and the Third Person changed that. It confirmed me in my belief that there is indeed a question about time pulsing all round us in our world today, and that one representation of that question is the penis.

Which explains perhaps why it eludes public discussion. If it is to get a hearing we are going to have to listen to unexpected, perhaps even psychotic, resonances. In reading the paper listen for that word dishonour when there is talk of time as ‘something discontinuous, a repetition of repeated reversal’, alert for feelings of intimate, personal, familial obligation that are in some strange way dishonouring. In my discussion of the Cronus myth, remember masturbation. Is the compulsion to masturbate evidence of an obligation to be doing something about the beginning and ending of time? Something both gruesome and divine. In my references to evolutionary theory there is talk of sex and death as invented. Evolutionary argument should be pulsing with questions about our responsability for that invention now. But to hear them, to feel them “arise”, we are going to have to share our vulgarity more openly. The invention of sex and death is not nice. It’s rude. Like masturbation.


Fourth Paper – Apocalypse and the invention of the method of invention

1983: Riddley Walker and Greenham Common: further thoughts on alchemy, christianity, and the work against nature.

This was my first public telling of the Clermont story. I was 57.

It is a response to Russell Hoban’s wonderful book Riddley Walker, and should be read with that book in mind.

I had sent Hoban a copy of my Jung Marx paper, to help explain my enthusiasm for his book. I still have his letter in reply.

27 May, 1982
Since talking to you on the telephone the other day I’ve read your letter over two or three times and I think that your perception of a violence done by us within metaphysical reality is utterly correct. As I write this it occurs to me that we cannot properly speak of a “metaphysical reality” as separate from the reality that we walk about in every day; there’s only one reality; one might perhaps refer to a range of perception relative to it as one refers to frequency coverage in a shortwave radio. It seems to me that this act of violence that you speak of has been a kind of anti-cathexis by which humanity has withdrawn from its original being. All of us, being particles of one universal mind, are affected by it and know about it at some psychical level but not all of us are aware that we know about it. I think that a great many of our actions have to do with compensating for or trying to regain that lost connexion.

I’ve been thinking about what I might send you of my unpublished writing, and for the moment I’ve decided on the enclosed essay. I wrote it in 1980 but I haven’t altogether come to grips with the material of it yet – it’s something that I refer to often. My inability to be with the black-and-white bull of Evangelistrias correctly and the idea of storing for retrieval a world that we don’t know how to live in are part of the violence that you have been addressing yourself to.

On page 4 of your paper you say: “A thousand years of intricate and passionate reflection on the mysteries of the christian faith and practice have separated mind from its original participation in nature. Within the space made by the separation man had room to experiment, and to sustain his experimenting, in a way that had never before been possible. He learned to enjoy putting nature to the torture.”

I think that the cult arising from the torturing to death of that particular man on that particular tree marked a turning in the path of human mind that remains a psychically magnetic point of reference with which not much can be done at the rational level. I’ve avoided reading Jung; I bought his Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious about twelve years ago but I found that I didn’t want to know what he had to say, and I’ve never read the book; I prefer these things to come to me how they will within the limits of my perception.

Apropos of your “cry from inanimate creation to the son of man” here is a bit of Pilgermann, the new novel I was copy-editing when your letter arrived at Cape:

“The humps and hollows of the landscape tend always towards the human: on this day the horizontal head of Christ was clearly visible in woods and fields and rocky outcrops. It was the head of the dead Christ brought down from the cross, his eyes closed, his passion complete. I sensed that it was important not to tilt my head to the horizontal the better to see his face; while I had no wish to make with the vertical of my head and the horizontal of his a cross, neither could I in good conscience avoid it.”

Thinking about Christianity (I note that you rate it a lower case) now as I write this letter I find in my mind the idea of a pulling up, a violent pulling up – I think of a mandrake root being pulled screaming out of the earth and nailed to a cross. You associate your idea of a metaphysical violence with Christianity, and the idea of a violent separation of the human from the rest of nature is clearly in it.Quote close

When I gave my paper to the Jung Club, Hoban was present. It was because of his story that I was telling my story, and Clermont has not been the same since.

This was my first attempt to spell out my growing belief that christianity is responsible for the technological conquest, or is it conversion, of the world. My argument, as my title, followed on from the Jung Marx paper, but with much more added.

What I think of as the historical sections must speak for themselves. But I want to comment on what this public telling did for the isolation and inflation invested in the Clermont story. Was it just a private heresy, or did others recognise it as speaking of a world they knew?

Two letters I received after it was published define the range of response which I got. One was enthusiastic, the other like a douche of cold water.

First, the enthusiasm. This was dated 30 March, 1984, and was written from the Hotel Garni at the Methodist Centre in Zurich, first on a sheet of hotel paper, then on two scraps added. It was from Joseph Wheelwright, an American of the generation that had analysed personally with Jung. I had met him at two of the International Congresses of Jungian Analysts, but did not know him well.

Dear David, I have just finished reading your piece in the recent copy of Harvest [that was number 29, 1983, in which my Riddley Walker paper first appeared, followed immediately by a paper by Wheelwright on Intimacy], and I have been very moved by it. Nothing less would have impelled me to write. I am internationally known as a man whose writer’s cramp a galaxy of analysts couldn’t cure. Not that I helped them much.
I felt a deep kinship to you, though we have travelled very different roads. But it seemed to me that for us both the bottom line was a passion for humanity and an unshakable belief in it. Most certainly I concur in the necessity to share our deepest feelings, and to hell with the embarrassment and the snide remarks about unbridled narcissism. And we are both story tellers. I am glad that we are published side by side. And I learned a lot about the eucharist, and Christianity from you. I have never thought of myself as Christian – nor God forbid (sic!) as anti-Christian. Relationship and intimacy have been my life, not scholarship and informed – even illuminated, at time – thinking such as you deliver. But I feel we’re headed in the same direction. But we do have it in us to accept our responsibility to humanity. I’m inclined to think it will be women who will save our bacon. Yours Jo W
[Now continued on the scraps]
Short addendum: There was a man named Maurice Nichol (s)?, who was extremely influenced by Jung before World War I. (Jung and Mrs J were god-parents to their first born.) In any case, he wrote a play called ‘Wings over Europe’ about 1926 or 7, which I acted in. It was about a young physicist who presented himself to the British Cabinet and said: “I can split the atom. Here are all my figures – I give them to you for this discovery belongs to humanity”. The whole action of the play is a discussion by the cabinet. They call – [Damn, I’m out of paper] – him back and the P.M. says: We very much appreciate your giving us your findings and applaud your unquestioning belief that they will be used constructively. Unfortunately we remember that though the Chinese discovered gunpowder and used it for firecrackers, it didn’t take Marco Polo long to see that it could be a notable instrument of destruction. Our consensus was that your work is too dangerous and we have destroyed it. End of play. This came to mind from a remark you made at the start of your paper.”Quote close

Then, the cold douche.

This was from R W Southern, the mediaevalist whom I had quoted in trying to evoke the thinking about the eucharist which was developing in Western Europe at the time of the first Crusade, the time when my story was set, a period characterised by what Southern described as ‘profound modification of thought’. Dick Southern had been my tutor at Balliol after the war. He had introduced me to the work of the philosopher R G Collingwood, who got me reading St Augustine, who sent me to read Jung: a truly formative influence, a person to whom I knew and know myself to be deeply and gladly indebted. So I sent him a copy of the printed paper, saying that it was perhaps rather crazy, but…. I forget my exact words.

His reply was characteristically generous, but it confirmed me in my sense of isolation.

Dear David, It was an unexpected pleasure to hear from you again after all these years. I had caught faint glimpses or reports of you for a few years after you went down; and then a cloudy vagueness descended, which has now been pierced, at least in one area, and I was glad to hear something, to read words which say something about your plans for the future.

I confess to being rather bewildered by what I read: ‘crazy’ it was not; but certainly bewildering – chiefly, I suppose, because you start with a foundation of experiences, which (so far as I can see) – vivid though they are – tell us nothing about the past experiences of the human race – or at least nothing on which we can build.

My idea of evidence must, I think, be quite different from yours. Of course I can’t say that yours is wrong, and mine right; but it makes it difficult to find a common ground and I don’t think I know any books which have the same foundation as yours.

Of course you will know Keith Thomas’s Religion and the Decline of Magic (I’m not sure that I’ve got the title quite right) and perhaps Alexander Murray’s Reason and Society in the Middle Ages. But, though they discuss some of the same subjects as you, they discuss them from a much more orthodox historical view point that you do. The same would be true of Colin Morris’s book on the Rise of the Individual in the 12th Century. What they all have in common with you is that they are talking about powers in the soul (or mind or spirit) which have not in the past been thought of as the proper subject of History. But though they stretch out beyond the conventional ambit of history, they do so with traditional ideas of what historical evidence is and how it should be treated. And this (if I understand you) is what you don’t do.

The result of this was that, though I was arrested by something in what you wrote about the experiences out of which your historical structures had grown, I could not really find much substance in the structures which you proposed.

I fear this is the response you must only too often have heard from your more conventionally historical friends, and I wish I could give you a more positive response. But at least I’ve had the pleasure of hearing something of what you have been doing; and I can send you our very warm regards and good wishes for what you are doing now and hoping to do in the future.Quote close

Though Dick’s letter confirmed me in my isolation, I think, looking back, that its warmth and generosity gave a new friendliness, almost a sort of conviviality, to my alienation. In particular, “which……vivid though they be – tell us nothing about the past experiences of the human race – or at least nothing on which we can build“. Those last words somehow gave me hope. Dick had written ‘work’, then crossed it out and substituted ‘build’. Isolated, even autistic, I might be, but perhaps not so inflated. There was need for work. With which I could agree.

I had many other responses to Riddley Walker and Greenham Common. But those two letters define well a field of judgment and emotion in which they can all find a place. Friendship always. But friendship voiced between puzzlement that verged on dismissal, and intimate recognition pointed with the history of the Jung movement and of this century of atomic energy that has been ours to make and endure, enjoy and survive.

But there was something else which this telling of the Clermont story in response to Russell Hoban’s story did for me. It confirmed me in my belief that we are going to have to learn how to take responsibility for ‘the invention of the method of invention’, and that that learning will involve, is already demanding, a deconstruction of christian theology that goes far beyond the Protestant calling into which I was born.


Fifth Paper – A Special Kind of Curiosity

1988: Alchemy and Psychosis: curiosity and the metaphysics of time.

In this paper personal exposure is brought together with my interest in the history of science and technology. Reading it through today, twelve years after it was composed, I wonder whether the personal material and the interest in history can illuminate each other without further cross references.

The personal exposure is most evident in the two dreams, one from 1955, one from 1962. These can now be read in context with other dreams of their time in my Eventful Responsability: fifty years of dreaming remembered, copies of which are in many Jungian libraries. To connect these with the history of science and technology we need curiosity of a special kind, the curiosity which has drawn many of us to Jung’s work on the psychology of alchemy: curiosity about sexuality as our way into what the animal, vegetable and mineral worlds have in common.

We can start with the theme of the two virgins, the jewish girl Mary and the alchemical Isis. I write of nature as virgin, and nature as used for a purpose outside itself, and my feeling that between the two there is need for some kind of sacrifice. I speak of curiosity about sex, about money, about worship, all feeding into this nucleus of feeling.

Which takes me to the Two Bodies, the personal body and the social body. I talk about the tension between them that allows for the elaboration of meanings. If we are to make sense of the sexual contradiction, which is also a metaphysical contradiction, between the Yes and the No of the christian and alchemical virgin we have to be curious about that tension. To do so, our feeling has to acknowledge and allow for shiver of a special kind, shiver that is both psychotic and worldly, personal and social. We have to imagine a fracturing of the air we breathe, a distortion of the light by which we see, a rupture in the rhythm of our breathing, a breaking of the word which makes human communication possible.

Are the christian mysteries asking to be retold with such a shiver in mind? In the tension between the Two Bodies today what happens to the worshipping mind as it dwells on Annunciation, Virgin Birth, Crucifixion?

I go on to talk about the relationship between ecology and sexual behaviour, between our understanding of and respect for the balance and consistency of our environment and the whole nexus of transaction between male and female. There are connections between the sexuality of our bodies and social responsibility for our environment that are crying out to be spoken of. For instance, marriage, one of the most familiar examples of the tension between the Two Bodies. Is there evidence of an investment in hurt which is all but unimaginable? The world of alchemy of which Jung reminds us is full of suggestion as to how human sexuality and the work against nature go together. Is marriage being asked to carry the hurt of that “work against”?

So I move on to curiosity and respect for Being. I am talking about a new kind of attention. Or rather, an old, a very old, kind of attention that has to be renewed if it is to play its part in our scientific and technological world.

We have to recover our sense of being responsible for time, not only for what may happen in time. The endless postponement of christian promise has led us to abjure that responsibility. We have to rediscover it. There is “a future infinitely more remote from ourselves than any we have been accustomed to consider” for which we have to take responsibility. To do so, we are going to have to attend to the beat of time, the rhythmic reversal of direction in which now, which is all the time we ever have, sustains both inheritance and expectation.

Which is where our dreams are such a present help. But only as long as we are not afraid of the obscene, blasphemous, sometimes deeply depressive, affect that they can bring with them. For instance, how do time and life relate? Or, to sharpen it up a little: is time for living, or is life for timing? Take our dreams and fantasies and abuses of incest as a way into that question. There is curiosity lodged there about sex and its part in time keeping which is crucial for the political economy of our world.

Of which more in


Sixth Paper – Offence that is Unspeakable?

1994: Sacred Hunger: Exponential Growth and the Bible.

In my years of trying to make sense of Clermont, the history of this talk has had a special place. Delivered to a Guild of Pastoral Psychology day conference on ‘Origins and Endings in Biblical Imagery’, the Guild declined to publish it over a period of five years. Furthermore, they were not prepared to give their reasons for doing so, though the word blasphemous was once used in friendly conversation. When the decision was later taken to publish all that was said was that the original decision had been an oversight.

I am left therefore with a sense of having given offence of a kind that is in some way unspeakable. And, given my respect for the Guild, a sense that there may well be good reason why it cannot be spoken. But where is the offence?

Reading it through today I can suspect offence of two kinds, one obscene, the other more mad. Together – blasphemous? Maybe that is how the psychotic feels when it tries to socialise.

I came into the christian church to share in the Eucharist. Clermont is about drinking blood that is God’s. Joining in a liturgy in which I say with others “We thank you for feeding us with the body and blood of your son” is a sociable response to the isolation of Clermont. In what I have written in Sacred Hunger about the Eucharist sexual hunger and the hunger of stomach and mouth are confused. Imagining the physiology of that confusion is indeed obscene. And what may make it worse is my talk of the bloody difference between male and female appetite, and between the ways in which those appetites are metabolised. Valid grounds for offence.

But there’s something madder than that. It’s about time (once again!).

I am speaking of time as hungry for its own fulfilment, of hunger that can be satisfied only by seed corn, of consumerism that is designed to be unsatisfying, and I am locating all this in the history of the Eucharist. There are feelings here which are bewildering, hugely excessive, wasting. Offensive perhaps. But it is just such feeling which I am trying to evoke. Because without it we are not going to be able to respond to the fusion of invention and profitability which now drives our world.

It was only after I had given the Sacred Hunger paper that I first read Maurice Bloch’s book Prey into Hunter: the politics of religious experience (which I now list in the bibliography to the paper). I have since read the book three times, and returned to it many more.

Bloch is an anthropologist. Prey into Hunter runs to 105 pages, and is in seven chapters: Introduction, Initiation, Sacrifice, Cosmogony and the State, Marriage, Millenarianism, Myth. Bloch’s central argument derives from a question. How do human beings, who are transient, who don’t last, who are born to die, participate in institutions which do last, which do not die? In other words, how do we keep time? How do we synchronise biological experience, organised round birth, death and reproduction, with historical experience of being members of institutions which endure, like families and societies?

His answer, derived from the study of various contemporary tribal peoples, the Abraham-Isaac story, Iphigenia, Buddhist and Shinto funeral rites, and early Christian experience as reflected in Paul’s discussion of circumcision, is based on the idea of ‘rebounding violence’. Rebounding violence is our response to a contradiction, the contradiction between a world of process, a world of biological transformation, and a world beyond process, a world which defies transience, a world which lasts. “The construction of the ritual drama of rebounding violence is an attempt to avoid the force of this contradiction (p.19)”.

The book caught and held my attention because it reminds me of work some of us did twenty years ago on the Jacob and Esau cycle, and the story it tells of food supply, family, religion, circumcision and tribal murder. It amplifies Caroline Bynum’s argument in her Holy Feast and Holy Fast about hunger as a craving that can never be filled, feeding as both transitive and intransitive, the body as simultaneously subject and object of hunger. It’s a book that leaves me wondering, not for the first time, how much more there is to the Bible than I ever hear about in church. And in relation to Clermont, its repeated analyses of how hunger, killing, sexuality, and the timing of history are related confirm me in my belief that my story should be taken seriously.

In the Eucharist we celebrate suffering of a kind that is assumed to be profitable. But what if the assumption is mistaken? Many Christians feel that the ecological crisis speaks into the heart of their faith. I am trying to allow for something crazed in that ‘speaking into’. What our ecological conscience is saying about christianity may well be blasphemous. And if it seems obscene too, perhaps we should be grateful. For if blasphemy is allowed to be obscene, it may help us get at the rude truth. In the end, rudery and mystery do go together.


Dad’s Historical Holies

In moving now to the years since I gave my Sacred Hunger talk there are various occasions which have contributed to my understanding of the Clermont story. They all had to do with time: lifetime, historical time, evolutionary time. And common to them all, sexuality.

The first occasion was to do with my work in the Oxford Pastoral Counselling Service. Here I met people from my local community in a context which combined membership of various christian churches with psychological and psychoanalytic curiosity. Close working relationships developed, and it became necessary for me to identify myself in a way that I had not done before. It ended in my preparing an autobiographical summary which I called ‘Apology of a lapsed Unitarian’.

I arranged it in five parts.

1. Unitarian conception and upbringing
Families of origin: for example – mother’s father, father’s mother
Bible and morality
Genesis and evolution
Mother and her interest in medicine
Haunting presence of “The Great War”
Father’s attitude to his ships – Capital and Duty
Father at school – Christ not God: same feeling for Trinity, Virgin Birth, Eucharist

2. Public School
Virtually only non anglican – the anglican liturgy
Introduction to St John’s Gospel references to The Comforter

3.Reading history at Oxford, introduction to Jung’s psychology, and “Clermont” R G Collingwood: The Idea of Nature gives place to The Idea of History
Collingwood’s discussion of Trinitarian belief in his Essay on Metaphysics
St Augustine’s Confessions as introduction to Jung: but also On the City of God
Learning to pay attention to dreams
Psychoanalysis and the three Holy Families: theology and psychotic secret
1948: the “Clermont story”: my personal myth – family caught in history
Analyst’s response: Jung’s 1940 Eranos lecture on the Trinity
Gilson’s Spirit of Mediaeval Philosophy: “Clermont” and the history of metaphysics
Marx on Capital, after experience in the navy: family secret opening into history

4. Ages 24 to 36: the way to first communion
Dreams of corn, and flesh eating, and interest in the Eucharist
Following on from the Clermont story: christianity and the history of science
Feelings for the German-Jewish holocaust
Dream of April 10, 1954: stammer, sexuality, and change in the direction of creation
Anglican marriage in 1955
History and the church of England: royalty, sexuality, judicial murder
Baptism 1960, confirmation and first communion 1962

5.Heresy and responsibility: published papers in which I have tried to speak my belief
1974 Jung and Marx: Alchemy, Christianity and the Work against Nature
“Can the non-christian heirs to christian technology accept that christianity guards the secret of their power over nature? And can the christian guardians – both living and dead – accept that there is, and always has been, a dimension to their faith which only non-christians can understand?”
1981 Jung and the Third Person
Incarnation and the question of time. “The time of biology and the time of history intersect, and separate, in family, between the generations and between the sexes, when an exchange, an oscillation, between two requires the presence of a third”. Extraversion, introversion, and Jewish mystical theology of creation.
1983 Riddley Walker and Greenham Common – further thoughts on Alchemy, Christianity and the Work against Nature (first publication of Clermont story)
The metaphysical foundations of modern science: christian hope of salvation and the experimental method. Transubstantiation in the Eucharist and “the invention of the method of invention” (A.N.Whitehead)
1988 Alchemy and Psychosis: curiosity and the metaphysics of time
Being in two minds: the Yes of the christian virgin, and the No of the alchemical virgin. The future since Chernobyl: scientific curiosity and the cost of time. How are we going to pay?
1994 Sacred Hunger: Exponential Growth and the Bible
Eucharistic hunger, sexual cannibalism, and the making of history. The Third Person of the Trinity has escaped from the understanding of the Church, and is now operative in the workings of modern science and technology and in the fear and greed of our financial markets. Is there any way by which we can reach It, in prayer, thought, or political action?

In discussing this summary in the OPCS I talked about the Clermont story in terms of family caught in history, and of myself as caught between history and nature. Collegial, social, talk of this kind made me aware to what an extent Clermont affects, and is affected by, what my family have called, affectionately and impatiently, ‘Dad’s historical holies’. History can affect me as immediate, personal, compelling, in a way that others find sentimental, embarrassing, irrelevant. Perhaps another example of the psychotic, the hysteric.

For instance, in talking about how I had come into the Anglican church in my late twenties and early thirties I realised that what I had to say could sound both offensive and ridiculous. In telling how the history of the Tudor royal family helped me in imagining common ground between my personal experience of sexuality and the history of the christian church I was speaking from conviction. But that wasn’t how people heard it. They heard it as gratuitous nonsense.

There is however another telling, another hearing.


The Dove and the Boar

The second person to whom I told the Clermont story, my analyst Edward Griffith, had doubts about the dove as Holy Ghost. He thought it might have more to do with Venus. But for many years this was a lead that seemed to take me nowhere in particular.

Until I read the poet Ted Hughes’ book on Shakespeare and the Goddess of Complete Being. Hughes’ book, which has rightly been described as shamanic, pulses with imagery that is Greek, Roman, Indian, as well as Christian, and gives a commanding place to Venus. Reading him, caught in the excitement of his reading of Shakespeare, I can believe that the Clermont dove is indeed a reminder of Venusian powers that have been wrung out of the christian story.

Hughes takes Shakespeare’s two long poems, Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece, as the key to the great tragedies and the four late plays. He calls this key “The Tragic Equation” – the words remain capitalised throughout – as he sets out in impassioned pages the workings of the Shakespearean “algebra”. Venus, the principle of “unconditional, total love” woos the pattern of princeliness, or rational man, in the form of the beautiful Adonis. When her “sweating lust” is rejected, she returns, in the form of the boar which gores the youth in the thigh and kills him. He is then changed into a flower, which she mourns and cherishes. Shakespeare’s poem, Hughes argues, presents this pagan icon – young god sacrificed in the arms of his mother and lover – as the old, Catholic faith repudiated; the nascent Puritan in Shakespeare scorns the mother goddess of love and renewal.

In The Rape of Lucrece, by contrast, Shakespeare occupies the Catholic viewpoint through the eyes – and voice – of his paragon and heroine Lucrece, and sees, in Tarquin, the rapist bent on destroying her soul. Suffering Adonis has “pupated”, and a Puritan fury has emerged, the iconoclast enemy of the goddess, hammering at cult statues of the Virgin Mary. But her soul is his, too, and he tears himself as he tears at her. His soul is England’s spirit, cloven by the Reformation. Shakespeare internalised the schism, and became “a shaman, a prophet, of the ascendant, revolutionary, Puritan will … just as surely as he was a visionary redemptive shaman of the Catholic defeat”.

Reading Hughes’s book I found the Clermont story affirmed again and again in its relevance. What I have felt for royal Tudor sexuality is here taken out into the nobility and the commons, and articulated in the details of Shakespeare’s theatre and the language of his poetry.

The tearing of the dove and the drinking of its blood are both sexualised and historicised: women’s sexuality and men’s sexuality competing murderously in their need for each other, and the government of peoples haunted by the celebration of the ritual killing that results. The English Reformation as the making of Shakespeare, and “the bloody difference between male and female appetite, and between the ways in which those appetites are metabolised” as the incentive to blood letting between Roman and Puritan christianity: the coming and the killing of the dove woven into our history.

Above all, I was confirmed in my thinking about masturbation. What Hughes has done in 517 pages with the idea of Venus as Boar has been described as an anatomy of misogyny. Perhaps. I read it as an inspired sharing of the question: what is masturbation for?

I wrote to Hughes, sending him a copy of my Theatre and Behaviour, including the talks I had given at our Hawkwood College enactments of The Tempest, Winter’s Tale, Measure for Measure, and The Merchant of Venice. His reply gladdened my heart.

6th Oct ‘92
Dear David Holt -
Somehow your note to me, and your “Theatre and Behaviour”, slipped through a crevasse in this mountain of paper on which I live. I found it only a couple of days ago.
Thank you for your words and for your lectures. They are so full of things – emerging from real work, insight grappling with the Proteus, not riffling through the card index. Reading them is putting me through a surprising process. I am seeing all kinds of things afresh. Thank you again.
Sincerely, Ted Hughes.Quote close

Rereading Hughes’ book now, I come to rest in his meditation on “the silence of Cordelia”. All that I am trying to say when I speak of the Yes and the No of the two virgins seems to be contained in that silence. But now I have to ask: is Cordelia silent because she has realised the identity of dove and boar?



In October 1995 I suffered a minor stroke, defined by the neurologists as an occlusion of the distal internal carotid artery. For some two or three weeks I was prevented from sleeping by bad headaches. I did not think that I was dying, but I spent time clearing out my files, destroying papers, and roughing out ideas as to how my funeral might be conducted.

These included an address which could be read for me, but spoken as it were in my own name. Here it is.

What have the living and the dead to celebrate together when we meet like this at a funeral?

Those of you who have heard me lecturing over the years will know my answer: Time. Time is given into our keeping. We meet together to keep time.

The time we live by is measured by us. Life is for timing just as time is for living. Time beats, and the beat is in our keeping.

The beat strikes. And we are stricken.

But there is music to be heard. As is said at the conclusion of Shakespeare’s Winter’s Tale :

Music, awake her; strike!

‘Tis time; descend; be stone no more, approach;

Strike all that look upon with marvel.

To hear that music strike we must take this and every funeral with us into the world.

Remember, please, what I have said and written so often. There are all sorts of political, economic, ecological, problems which will prove too much for us if we forget that time is given into our keeping. Funerals are an opportunity to remember.

Time is both gift and responsibility, responsibility and gift. How can that be?

There is a beat to be caught, a beat in which gift and responsibility come together. Funerals are an opportunity to catch that beat, together, living and dead, and to hold it in our keeping.

Think of that when you go on to refresh yourselves after this service, as I hope you will. The change of mood between church and the refreshment afterwards can be difficult. But it is in just such changes of mood that we can catch the beat of time.

Remember another Shakespeare text, from Twelfth Night, the reply to Malvolio’s “Is there no respect of place, persons, nor time in you?”, to which Sir Toby answers “We did keep time, sir, in our catches”.

Oh, our catches! Some of you will have shared with me in our weekends at Hawkwood, when we used to enact all those stories and plays together. Can you remember the catch of breath as we moved from rehearsal to live performance?

In rehearsal, we could always start again, yet there was never enough time. In performance, we just had to go on, yet there was always the time we needed. As we moved from rehearsal to live performance, time changed. Its tense was different. That change in tense brought the play to life.

The same change in tense is with us now. This place is charged with it.

Tell me: which of us is in rehearsal, which in live performance?

There is never enough time. There is all the time we need. Somehow (God only knows how) both are true, if only we can catch the beat.

Which is why we are here. Now. Hereafter. Like it was and like it will be, it is still “once upon a time”.

Still. A still beat. We are come together, you and I, to catch that beat.”Quote close

In relation to the Clermont story what is important about my funeral address is the sense of ‘we’ as inclusive of both the dead and the living. The idea of time as given into our keeping was already a familiar one whenever I allowed history and sexuality to grate against each other. Writing my funeral address gave an altogether new weight to the word ‘our’. I realised that what I am trying to say when I talk of time depends on ‘us’. Unless it is spoken and heard together with others it makes no sense. Time keeping is essentially social. It involves we before and after I.

As we recognise in the celebration of death.

Which is not as comforting (or sentimental) as it may sound, when we remember that death can be from unnatural as well as natural causes, that we kill as well as die.



In April 1997 I gave a talk at the Jung Circle in Cambridge. My title was “Like it or not, we are all christians now”, and I told them that I would speak about “how Jung’s psychology has influenced my understanding of God in history”.

The talk centred on a telling of the Clermont story, and of the dream in which it originated. But as compared with previous public tellings I introduced a more explicit account of “the continuing story of the Christian Trinity”, which I called “the success story that won’t stop”.

Science, modern science as it has developed over the last five hundred years, is essentially christian. By science I mean both pure and applied science, the science of research laboratories and science as applied in our technology.

With applied science I include the economic forces which drive that application, which make it profitable to invest in scientific research. In short, capitalism. Both are essentially christian.

In science and its application christianity has succeeded in converting the world. Whether we like it or not, in living off modern science we are all christians. In profiting and in suffering from the effects of science we all experience what it is like to be converted by christianity.

But christianity has failed to understand its own success. We are being driven by a story that has lost any sense of its own resolution. To find that resolution we must reconsider our history.

The development of modern science and of capitalism have been studied in relation to the Reformation, that separation in western christendom which caused and was caused by the protestant call to reform christian doctrine and living as expressed in the roman catholic tradition.They have also been studied in relation to the earlier separation in the eleventh century when the western and eastern churches disagreed about the procession of the Holy Ghost.

I believe we need to take these studies further, in admitting both far greater success and far greater failure than are yet allowed for. We have to give christianity the credit for the successes of science while also recognising that it fatefully fails to comprehend its own success.Quote close

Then, having told the Clermont story, I spoke about how I had been working on it over the years in an attempt to “incorporate the psychotic in history”. We discussed this together on the basis of notes which I handed out, headed “Getting the feeling right”.

Here they are.

Suffering and intelligence
Christian feeling is organised round the power of suffering. Scientific feeling is organised round the power of intelligence. If they are to find a common language we have to do justice to both. For this I believe we will need a theology of creation, incarnation, and experiment, rather than a theology of creation, incarnation, and redemption.

Experiment and sacrifice
Our culture is powered by experiment that is effective, inventive, generative. We embody that experiment, as both object and subject. But experiments work, they prove something, because they are able to fail.

That “because” is crucial. It is what joins science and christianity. And the join is sacrificial.

The experimental method is sacrificial. The possibility of failure that underwrites it derives from christian experience of sacrifice. If science is to understand its limits it has to make that sacrifice its own. Trial and error involves suffering as well as intelligence.

What does it feel like to embody experiment that is sacrificial, that works, is effective, inventive, generative, because it can fail?

The sacrificial body
The sacrificial body is essential to christian experience of history. From virgin birth to crucifixion to resurrection and eucharist, christianity preaches the sacrificial body as maker of history: the sexual body, the crucified body, the risen body, the body that gives to eat and eats and is itself eaten.

My belief is that in science christian experience of the sacrificial body has been taken further. It has been translated out of christian control. (In the language of christian feeling, instead of the expected Second Coming there has been a Second Fall.)

It has been translated into laboratory, machine, manufacture, and the marketing of capital. So that laboratories, machines, manufactures, and the marketing of capital, partake of incarnation. They are the sacrificial body.

We are learning what that body feels like. It is a body in which suffering and intelligence have all but lost touch with each other.

Take Chernobyl and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, mad cow disease and genetic engineering, and refer our feelings about them to our domestic politics of energy, jobs, goods, taxation; to our dependence on, and enjoyment of, the generative hunger of our capital markets as they profit from the inventiveness of science. Is any body answerable for those markets? What is it that we come face to face with in our chemical laboratories? What does the experimental method know of mercy? Can the “method of invention” differentiate between creation and destruction? Is there any body to call it to account? When science invites us to feast its success, what voice cries, or howls, “This is my body”?

Christianity’s failure to comprehend its own success is a world problem. It is the world, not the church, that now constitutes Christ’s sacrificial body. An experiment with incarnation has been translated into an experiment with creation. Everybody and everything carries, and is carried on, the real possibility that it may fail.Quote close

This Cambridge talk was for me my most satisfying attempt so far to make something shareable of Clermont. The psychotic was being socialised in a new way. It was as if there was something in the Cambridge air which was sympathetic to what I was saying. I remember in particular one man reminding us, and himself, almost as if he were thinking aloud, that Robert Boyle had been a Unitarian.

But most heartening was a letter I received afterwards from a woman who had worked with me some years previously. I quote it at length, including the extract from Crown Prince Hassan’s lecture, as one of the most carefully felt responses I have had to the Clermont story. She had heard the madness, and felt able to protest yet not deny.

It’s not easy to know how to respond to your talk. There was, for me, a sense of familiarity with the material – the dream, the story and the images, which I remembered from when I was working with you. I was left, I think, with impressions, associations and questions, all deeply subjective, rather than with any coherent intellectual response.

Among these were the opposites of masculine/feminine and thinking/feeling. I couldn’t personally identify with the tearing of the dove and the drinking of the blood and wondered what really stopped the boy slaking his thirst in the pool? And why did the barren landscape so connect for me with undiluted Thinking? Thought, as it were, unlubricated, unoiled by Feeling? Did the female figure who emerged represent the possibility of ‘oiling’ (anointing?) that which was dry and barren? She did for me. Grace, too? Of course, I don’t understand how the Feminine is released in men – in this case, it followed an act of violence (or desperation?).

I was also left wondering where this powerful image of the tearing of the dove’s body and the drinking of its blood leaves the spiritual/emotional experience of those who don’t share or understand it: am I missing something or is my experience merely different?

Like you, I find myself fairly pessimistic about our present condition but, in a strange way, also energised and focussed by that pessimism – in the sense of just how crucial, how urgent it is that we deal with one another humanely; that we live as if the great moral code had meaning – and thereby making it live. It always brings me back to George Eliot who, though I haven’t read her for years now, remains my Mrs Greatheart. It particularly takes me back to the morning after Dorothea’s agony (from the chapter ‘Sunset and Sunrise’ in Middlemarch). ‘She opened the curtains and looked towards the bit of road that lay in view, with fields beyond, outside the entrance gates. On the road there was a man with a bundle on his back and a woman carrying her baby; in the field she could see figures moving, perhaps the shepherd with his dog. Far off in the bending sky was the pearly light, and she felt the largeness of the world and the manifold wakings of men to labour and endurance. She was a part of that involuntary, palpitating life and could neither look out on it from her luxurious shelter as a mere spectator nor hide her eyes in selfish complaining’. I think there is a sense for me that the ‘waking to labour’ is a different sort of labour now – a moral labour, a moral struggle, to live ‘as if’; to live ‘as if’ in the face of meaninglessness, bleakness, stupidity and cruelty.

The idea that the Spirit has ‘escaped’ the Trinity and is now impelling science, technology and the market is indeed ‘shattering’, as one of the people in the Cambridge audience said. Is this the whole story? Are there other aspects of the Spirit that may also be discerned? Even in science? (What, for example, of cosmology – the sheer awesomeness and wonder of discoveries being made?) Books like ‘The Aquarian Conspiracy’ take an altogether different view of the workings of the Spirit. ‘The spirit of our age is fraught with paradox. It is at the same time pragmatic and transcendental. It values both enlightenment and mystery… power and humility ….interdependence and individuality. It is simultaneously political and apolitical. Its movers and shakers include individuals who are impeccably Establishment allied with one time sign carrying radicals. Within recent history ‘it’ has infected medicine, education, social science, hard science, even government with its implications. It is characterised by fluid organisations reluctant to create hierarchical structure, averse to dogma. It operates on the principle that change can only be facilitated, not decreed. It is short on manifestos. It seems to speak to something very old’. (Interesting that Marilyn Ferguson, the author, uses words like ‘fluid’, as it’s something of this quality that the ‘lady’ in your dream represents for me.)

After hearing your talk, I read a Quaker lecture given by Crown Prince Hassan of Jordan (a memorial lecture to the Quaker Sydney Bailey, who said ‘Peace is a process to engage in, not a goal to be reached’.) Here is an extract from that lecture:

Peace is an ongoing commitment. It is something that must be built up and maintained… The 20th century has been marked by the relentless quest for novelty and the hope of open ended progress. Its central vehicle and metaphor has been science. With science and a rational approach to all things, we believed we could master the world. But we who stand at the end of the 20th century have been obliged to accept the existence of limits….. Beyond these limits lies something greater and inconceivably more sophisticated than human intellect. And it is, ironically, science itself that has brought us to the verge of comprehension.

For science has now arrived at the understanding that nature is an interconnected, interdependent whole. Humanity could not exist apart from it. Where once we styled ourselves masters of nature, we must now acknowledge that we are but a part of it.

Science tells us that galaxies and quantum particles alike are best seen not as discrete entities possessing certain fixed qualities, but as part of a fluid (that word again!) field of existence. In both the macrocosm and the microcosm, everything that exists is part of the infinitely complex network of creation, in which everything is fundamentally related to everything else. And as part of this network, the very same holds true of human beings, and of our constructs: societies, nations, states. We are, by definition, our relationships.

From the certainties of the mechanical Newtonian-Cartesian universe, we now find ourselves in a universe where relativity, uncertainty and chaos are the leading theories. At this point, science seems, like the serpent, to be devouring its own tail. But from this morass emerge clear principles of interconnection and interdependence. What does this mean for human behaviour? What does this mean for peace?

If interdependence arising from interconnection is the underlying principle of the world then each person stands at the centre of a triangle of relationships: human to human, human to nature, human to God.

The violation of peace begins when we hold the self to be more important than anything else. When our horizon has shrunk to the point where we can only see our own shadows, we have lost the ability to live in true peace. And so begin the conflicts: human against human, human against nature, human against God.

There now exists a unique opportunity for a quantum leap in favour of peace. For these understandings are figured in our spiritual traditions and are now confirmed by science. They thus enjoy a powerful dual authority. When they spread through our societies, our ideologies and our histories will seem far less significant than our fellowship…. And it may be that our fear of peace, and our fear of the future, will prove to be an asset and not a handicap…. For as I said earlier, only if we truly comprehend what suffering means can we begin to overcome it. Fear of the future could be exactly what we need to bring about a better future.”

So, you see, this is what I am left with: pessimism yes, but also paradox; and also belief (which is not necessarily the same as hope) and even determination that living ‘as if’ is our only positive option.

On our local television news two nights ago there was the story of a rare breed of spider which lives in the fens and is now under threat of imminent extinction because prolonged drought coupled with extraction of water has left its habitat too dry and barren for it to survive in. The regional water company is now (at a time of national water shortage) in the process of diverting and pumping millions of gallons of water into the area in an attempt to try and restore the natural habitat of the spider and save it from extinction. A spokesman from the water company said how important it was that we lived alongside the spider…. What complex spirit is operating in that water company?Quote close

Heartening, and also companionable. There is plenty there to remind me of the isolation and inflation, of the autistic, the psychotic, and the hysteric. But there is also badly needed reassurance that what I had said was no cause for alienation, a reminder that responsibility can be – no, stronger than that – wants to be shareable.


In Front of the Children

Six months later I presented an extended version of my Cambridge talk at a morning and afternoon meeting of the Jung Club in London. My three children, aged 40, 38, and 27 were in the audience. It was the first time I had spoken of Clermont with them.

The occasion was partly in celebration of the Club’s 75 years since its beginning in 1922, but I was also aware that it was now fifty years since I had first got involved with Jung’s work. So I called my talk “Fifty years on: how Jung has influenced my christianity”. There was a strong sense of sharing in history.

I tried to say more about feeling, and about the psychotic, than I had in Cambridge. The notes which I spoke to, and which the audience had in their hands, included these two pages. The first was the conclusion to our morning session, the second the opening to our afternoon.

Before lunch

“There is something wrong with christianity, and the only way I can do anything about it is in being christian.”

From its beginning christianity was filled with expectation of the future. Christ is going to come again. There is a promise that is going to be fulfilled. The last judgment is something to be taken into account, to be lived by, now.

Two thousand years have passed. What has happened?

I believe that instead of a Second Coming there has been a Second Fall. Christ’s death made possible the coming of the Spirit, the Holy Ghost, the Third Person of the Trinity, the Comforter. Then something went wrong, like the Bible says went wrong at the beginning, in Genesis, when Adam and Eve tasted the forbidden fruit. We took that Holy Spirit into ourselves, appropriated it to our own use as if it belonged to us. As a result we became invested with power of a kind new to our species.

My religious calling seems to be about responsibility for that power, about how we explore, inhabit, suffer, work with, connections between the power of modern science and the sacrificial tradition from which it derives.

I believe there is a problem of feeling here which is huge, too huge. There’s something mad about the world we are making. To get at that madness we are going to have to ask ourselves questions that get lost in a void or hiatus, or an ‘o’, between those who call themselves christian and those who do not.

For those questions to “arise” we have to return into the heart of the christian mysteries in search of something that’s been overlooked. What is it in the christian mysteries that makes possible this Second Fall? What is there hidden away in the complex system of virgin birth, crucifixion of an only begotten son, resurrection, eucharist, trinity, that could make possible the scientific conquest of nature during the last four hundred years?

I have no revelation as to what that something might be. I am stuck with a problem of feeling that is huge, too huge. And that’s what I want to try and share with you this afternoon.

After lunch

This afternoon I want to try if we can share some feelings about madness and how we respond to madness. I have spoken of the madness of the world we are making. I want now to talk about our own madness, to see if that can help us own, inhabit and take responsibility for, our world. Can we move between our little madnesses and a big, world size, madness?

People whose judgment I cannot easily ignore have spoken of the Clermont story as psychotic.

The psychotic is always a possibility to watch out for with Jung.

Jung’s psychology is madness friendly. Jung felt able to work with the insane. Which has its dangers, as well as opening up the possibility of extraordinary changes in our state of mind.

Jung is also friendly to the holy. Which has its dangers too, dangers in which few of us are trained. And the dangers get worse if we confuse the mad and the holy, as we easily can in working with dreams.

So in talking about what I have made of the Clermont story it may be helpful to define what I mean by psychotic. I think of it as:

– a shattering, shivering, breaking into bits, of mind

– an emptying out, evacuation, of the mind that allows an alien entering in

– a fixed stare in the face of the incomprehensible: the memory of that “fix” remaining as a shadow across the mind,

(with “mind” taken to include feeling as well as thought)

I think my Clermont story is an attempt to respond to, to reflect on, some such experience.

But what is it experience “of”? Is it experience “of” anything? Or is it simply delusion, a vain imagining, a mis-understanding, a private heresy that is best left to die in private?

I am presenting it to you now as an experience of something real. And I am calling that something “the christian hiatus”.Quote close

Almost forty years on, the Clermont story was beginning to find its place in feeling which I could share with a public that was both of strangers and of family. But what made October 4, 1997 such a special occasion for Clermont was my reference to the voicework I had been introduced to after my stroke two years before.

For the previous fifteen months I had been having weekly lessons in breathing, singing, speaking – voicework. Initially associated with recovery from the stroke though also related to my stammer, this voicework was changing my experience and understanding of how word and breath are related. Which affected my theology. Sentences like “In the beginning was the word”, and “By the power of the Holy Spirit” were coming to sound differently.

I spoke of this voicework at the close of my talk to the Club, in referring to what has been the ever recurring theme of my story, time. I called this conclusion “the clock that breathes”. Here are the notes to which I spoke.


I would like to end on a more hopeful note, but I don’t know if I can. As I said at the beginning, I need your help. Sharing feelings about madness is not easy.

I am wondering what my Clermont story may have to say about breathing.

Think of that dove, and of the word spirit, whether it be holy or not. Spirit is to do with breathing, surely? When we die and stop breathing, the spirit goes out of us. Isn’t breathing at any rate part of what we mean by spirit?

Since my stroke two years ago I have been having help with my speech, first in hospital with exercises for my tongue and cheeks and lips, more recently with a man whom I would warmly recommend, who is teaching me about breathing and voice production, lessons which I wish had come my way fifty years ago.

One of his exercises is this.Quote close

[Here I stopped talking, and moved into performance. Standing with my arms hanging loosely at my sides I breathe slowly and deeply a few times. Then I circled one arm, with my eyes on the finger tips, stretching and reaching as far as I can, from front to side to back, breathing in as the arm is raised, breathing out as it is lowered. Two or three times with one arm, then the same with the other.]

I like doing it. It reminds me of the breathing exercises in T’ai Chi classes, of how my teacher taught us first, to still the mind, then, to listen to the body, then, to catch our breath. But there’s something about that out reach of the arms and hands and fingers and breath which excites me more than I can understand.

In particular, it has taken me back into a dream I had more than forty years ago, March 24, 1956. Here it is.

The scene is partly Oxford, partly a primitive Pacific island, where are gathered together the modern magnificence of the British Navy and a whole civil service ministry from Whitehall (query testing an atomic bomb). There is a lengthy process by which I return to school in my adolescence for sexual initiation, and then am joined by present-day publishing colleagues to be taken into this ministry place. There is a book showing the conjunction of a ceremony of these Easter Island primitives (eighteenth-century British opening up the Pacific) in their mythological paint, and the marvels of the modern navy. At the entrance gate there is a huge snake, with its vast tongue spread out on the ground in front of it, a three-pronged tongue. I am told this is an ant catcher, and ‘because its forked tongue is rooted under the tongue and not on the roof of the mouth’, it is safe. It is not dead.

Various pornographic books show pictures of obscene rites associated with Osiris. Almost all these pictures show the god-goddess as a figure only partially carved out of rock, so that the figure of obscene majesty is as it were only half emerged from rock.

As the conjunctive ceremony of primitive and modern comes to a point, it is set now in Oxford, near the martyrs’ memorial, the day before a seasonal holiday ceremony rooted in the tradition of English soil. George Orwell has written a book in which he describes the abandonment of the people in the streets to wild licence during this Maypole-Easter ceremony. With my publishing colleagues I am now at the centre and top of the ceremony, and realise that I am being broken up, my legs and arms, so that I can be tied to the weathercock or clock hands or crucified, so that my utterly broken body will be a sign to the assembled peoples that both the primitive Easter Islanders and the British Navy and the Oxford crowds will understand at once: a man of broken limbs crucified and telling the time to a whole city as the hands of the clock move and the weathercock turns with the wind.

That was my dream in 1956. The cross as clock, and as weathercock. The crucified body able to move so that it may tell the time.

And now, in 1997, there are new thoughts (evidence of the fact that there is no such thing as a finished dream):

What if the body which is the weathercock were to catch its breath? What if the time telling body were to begin to breathe?

That’s where I can feel hope.

You see, I am stuck with this conviction that the experimental method which powers our world is in some way connected to the christian cross. It is a method which is proving itself blessedly and terribly effective. It is also sacrificial, which we easily forget. What if that method were to learn to breathe, to catch its breath, and in that catching to reflect on its sacrificial origin?Quote close

What my children made of it all I’m not sure. But for myself, the point of the Clermont story was getting clearer. Voicework was making it simpler.


Lenten voicework

Breathing and voicework took me a critical step further the following spring, when I was asked to share in leading a Lent group under the auspices of Churches Together in North Oxford.

Back in the spring of 1948, when Irene asked me to say some words with ‘o’ in them, the first that came, after quite a silence, was love. I had been wondering for some time whether the Clermont story, and all the work I have put into it, could be thought of as a kind of ‘deconstruction of the word love’. Lent 1998 persuaded me that that might indeed make sense.

But it began three years earlier, in a meeting of the Oxford Psychotherapy Society in March 1995, a meeting which made me look afresh at the fear, the terror, associated with love.

We had been expecting to hear a talk by the psychoanalyst Peter Fonargy on “The Psychotherapeutic Treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder”. But at the last minute Dr Fonargy had to withdraw because of family illness. In his place one of our committee members, Andrew Powell, read us a paper (written, he warned us, for another public and another occasion) on “Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Healing: Three Sides of one Triangle”.

Andrew began (I quote from the account I wrote afterwards for the OPS Bulletin)

with an account of his own development as a psychiatrist and psychotherapist. He described his experience as House Officer to William Sargant at St Thomas’s, work in a coronary care unit (which made him acquainted with near-death experience), and then at the Maudsley, first as psychiatrist, then as psychotherapist. Then another door opened, and he found himself in psychoanalysis. “It was a revelation to me”. Personal analysis was followed by training in both individual and group analytic therapy.
Andrew then turned to a wide ranging discussion of “the great brain-mind debate” of the last three hundred years, gradually focusing on recent work directed beyond a facile eclecticism to higher levels of organisation. He referred to developments in chemistry (the Rayleigh-Bernard cell), to the remarkable finding of the Belousov-Zhabotinsky reaction, and to Prigogine’s dissipative structures, arguing that in the last fifty years advances in astrophysics and cosmology, relativity theory and quantum mechanics have put God right back on centre stage. We have experimental data both on the influence of mind over matter and mind on mind, and we are living in a time when mysticism and science are rapidly converging.
The concluding third of the paper described some of his experiences in healing over the last ten years (‘healing’ used in a special sense, as in the College of Healing. As a non doctor I was initially puzzled to hear a doctor talking of healing as something to which he was introduced in mid career), presenting the “subtle energy which manifests in science variously as the implicate order, quantum field condensates, far-from-equilibrium conditions and so on” as related to human experience of love. This was perhaps the most personal part of the paper, argued with conviction, restraint and concern for evidence, but for some of us disconcertingly strange.Quote close

In the discussion afterwards one of Andrew’s colleagues questioned the emphasis he had given to the word love. This encouraged me also to say that I felt he was expecting too much of love. He insisted. I said that if we were to talk of love in our work I needed to speak also and equally of fear. At one stage I said that talk of love could leave me feeling shit scared.

I walked out to the hospital car park afterwards feeling that I had spoken more honestly at that meeting than I had ever done in christian circles.

That night I had this dream.

Setting: house in which I spent first 13 years of my life. I am living, married, to a working class woman. The class thing is important. Her husband is there too, and another woman. We are ‘playing’ at their being bad to me, some sense of sado masochistic sexual excitement.
Then realise suddenly that it’s not a game. They are psychotic and are going to kill me. I call for help. I’m in the garden, banging on plate glass window, trying to attract attention from the numerous lodgers living on the ground floor, crying out for help. But they think I am mad like the others, and their response is to flee from the house and grounds.
I rush to perimeter fence, railings, calling to people outside for help. I manage to get out, but they bundle me back through a gate in the perimeter fence, a gate which is being locked, sealed off, against the madness inside. I am pleading with them to believe me, to realise the danger I am in, they (the man and woman and other in the house) will gradually reduce me to terror, kill me, eat me alive in there.
One of these people outside must realise, sooner or later, perhaps when it is too late, that I’m telling the truth, and come to help me. But no one hears. I am forced back in, and wake from nightmare, with immediate association with the OPS meeting and my saying ‘I am shit scared’.Quote close

In making me shit scared the word love had taken me into the psychotic terror of family life. Which has its own peculiar excitement, carrying its own peculiar responsability, if only someone will show us how.

The next stage in preparing for Lent, 1998, involved the Oxford Pastoral Counselling Service. This body, for which I had prepared my Apology, had recently broken up. In our closing weeks together I had circulated a short paper on Psychoanalysis and Religion, in which I had spoken of “the responsibility of fear”. In conclusion I wrote this:

Religious experience owns the holy. It makes holiness its business. Psychoanalysis does not. Psychoanalysis makes madness its business. Not only the florid and exotic forms of madness immediately recognised as such, but all those partial manifestations of our crazedness which we speak of as splitting, displacement, denial, dissociation of feeling, encapsulated depression, delusional transference, windows of psychosis, schizogenic families, double binds…

I think what draws many of us to pastoral counselling is an interest in the overlap of holiness and madness. Which is very much more dangerous than I once thought. Indeed I am beginning to wonder if I shall ever learn just how dangerous it is. What we feel and know in the presence of the holy, and what we feel and know in the presence of the mad, are not the same. But they are sometimes uncannily alike. They do overlap, and the overlap can be fascinating, exhausting, wasteful. If that is what draws me to pastoral counselling I still have much to learn.

What I have tried to do over the years is to teach myself and others a certain tact, tact of a special kind. I prefer to speak of “tact” rather than the more traditional “discernment” because it keeps us in the body. Tact is interested in behaviour, manners, gesture, intonation, touch.

I also like the word tact because it sounds just like the German word Takt, meaning musical time, beat, measure. Working in the overlap between holiness and madness we are introduced to times with a truly terrible beat. To stay with that beat, to recognize its urgency, to be measured in our response, we need Takt.

But we have to recognise also that there are things we can’t touch. Some things are too hot to handle. And there are times to pick up the receiver, and times to leave the message unacknowledged on the answerphone. There are times when if we wish to be in touch apprehension is a better guide than comprehension.

Because we deal in danger. Let us be in no doubt about that. Mixing psychoanalysis and religion is very dangerous indeed. Feelings are invoked which are both infantile and cosmic. Violence is sacred. It goes without saying. Violator and victim change places. The creation of time entails an absolute terror of disappointment. The crossing of incarnation with incorporation calls for circumcision as well as baptism, and though there may be all kinds of anaesthetic available the fact of pain remains.

Danger of this kind has to be taken seriously. We must be careful not to dare too much. There is always a bridge too far. Our limitations need valuing rather than overcoming. Pastoral counselling has to allow for fear. Fear is how we respond to danger. It is not something to be ashamed of. Fear is responsible. If we are to work together responsibly we need each others help in owning fear.Quote close

So the ground had been prepared for some response to my shit scared by love dream. People with whom I had worked in the OPCS were interested in hearing me talk about fear. It was out of this interest that I was invited to share in leading a Lent group in 1998. I took as my theme: “Fear, Love and our Christian Future: can psychology help us recover an appreciation of the religious significance of fear?”

When the group met I introduced myself as a psychologist with an interest in madness, and at the end of our first evening together gave us as a text for the following weeks this summary:

“There’s something mad about the world we are making. To understand that something mad we have to return into the heart, the fearful heart, of the Christian mysteries.”

But whatever I had planned for the rest of our time together had to be put aside. It had to make room after that first meeting for the unexpected conjunction of two events: one at the Stations of the Cross in my parish church, the other (once again) at a meeting of the Oxford Psychotherapy Society.

As far as I can remember, it was the first time in my life that I had worshipped at the Stations of the Cross. The decision to do so was certainly related to my leading one of the Lent groups. The form of service used in our church took as its text words from an American “Everyone’s Way of the Cross”, dated 1970. At the fourth station, when Jesus meets his mother, the priest, speaking for Christ, said:

My mother sees me whipped
She sees me kicked and driven like a beast.
She counts my every wound.
But though her soul cries out in agony,
no protest or complaint escapes
her lips or even enters her thoughts.
She shares my martyrdom -
and I share hers.
We hide no pain, no sorrow,
from each other’s eyes.
This is my Father’s will.

to which we replied

My Jesus, Lord,
I know what you are telling me.
To watch the pain of those we love
is harder than to bear our own.
To carry my cross after you,
I, too, must stand and watch the sufferings of my dear ones -
the heartaches, sicknesses, and grief of those I love.

And I must let them watch mine, too.

I do believe -
for those who love
all things work together unto good.Quote close

Being well behaved I went on with the shared service. But I felt myself in the presence of something mad. Familiar madness. Family madness. Yet still, mad, shockingly, irresponsably, mad.

Five words in particular: “no protest or complaint escapes her lips or even enters her thoughts.

I took my experience into our Lent group, as an illustration of what we might mean by “the fearful heart of the Christian mysteries”. A woman, whom I had not known before, drew our attention to the fact that this particular text had been written by a man (or so the order of service said). “Only a man could have written that”. Yes, indeed. But still….. Wasn’t there more of a protest to be made?

We compared this text with the 1693 song of Nahum Tate and Henry Purcell “Tell me, some pitying angel”, also known as “The Blessed Virgin’s Expostulation”, in which the mother protests against if not the father himself at least his flattering visiting angel.

The comparing was an extraordinary experience. Never had I felt so immediately the Yes and the No of the two virgins.

Tell me, some pitying angel, quickly say,
Where does my soul’s sweet darling stay,
In tiger’s, or more cruel Herod’s way?
O! rather let his tender footsteps press
Unregarded through the wilderness,
Where milder savages resort:
The desert’s safer than a tyrant’s court.
Why, fairest object of my love,
Why dost thou from my longing eyes remove?
Was it a waking dream that did foretell
Thy wond’rous birth? no vision from above?
Where’s Gabriel now that visted my cell?
I call; he comes not; flatt’ring hopes, farewell.
Me Judah’s daughters once caress’d,
Call’d me of mothers the most bless’d;
Now (fatal change!) of mothers most distress’d.
How shall my soul its motions guide,
How shall I stem the various tide,
Whilst faith and doubt my lab’ring thoughts divide?
For whilst of thy dear sight I am beguil’d,
I trust the God, but oh! I fear the child.Quote close

(In the song, the words ‘I call’ are repeated four times. Similarly, the words ‘he comes not’.

The whole phrase is then repeated, with ‘Gabriel’ inserted between ‘I call’ and ‘he comes not’, the name Gabriel also being repeated four times.)

“I fear the child”. Is she saying “I fear for the child”, or is it the voice of an altogether more terrible protestation, quite simply, “I fear the child”? The word fear opens, becomes uncertain in its attribution.

But then came another of our monthly talks at the Oxford Psychotherapy Society.

It was on “The role of the Father in the early development of the child, from an infant observation perspective”, given by Ricky Emmanuel, the Head of Child Psychotherapy Services at the Royal Free Hospital and Camden and Islington Community Trust. The conjunction of themes, the sense of intended coincidence, was compelling, even to the name of our speaker.

Here we heard the work of the Tavistock Clinic tradition at its most persuasive, engaging, humane, questioning. And in discussion we shared a wide range of personal and professional experience. What part does the father play in the development of the child?

I found myself as it were in play between two worlds, two traditions. Almost as if I was being juggled with. On the one hand, the christian, on the other hand, clinical observation, reflection, comparison, all informed by an explicit sexuality. My sympathies were confused, excited, uncertain which way to turn. There were too many choices. More, much more, was going on than I could manage.

I took my confusion into my voicework the next week. My teacher suggested that I assume each of the three roles, Mary, Joseph, Jesus, in turn, and voice them. I objected that there were four roles: mother, father, Holy Ghost, child. All right, four then. Take them in turn and sound them.

I was Joseph first. A strong man, happy in his wife’s pregnancy, a powerful figure, proud in his role of protector. No hint of the cuckold. With my back to the door, the room was to be a safe place. The sound was confident. I enjoyed it hugely. Then Mary, replying to her husband, a joyous and grateful response. Which broke suddenly. There was something else. Another memory. The voice broke, into question, puzzlement, hesitation, an uneasy wondering. Then, moving across the room, I was the baby. Foetus still. All face, face as viscus, sucking, wet sounds, exploring, a wriggling sense of something going on which I must hope is all right.

Then, fourthly, the Holy Ghost, by whose power…. But I now have no recollection of the sounds I made.

My Clermont story has not been the same since that voicing. There is a way into christian mystery which I had not known. Breath can voice questions and responses that words cannot.

I think it was some weeks after that nativity voicing that I realised what had happened. When we speak of the love of God there can be a sense of reciprocity: our love of God, God’s love of us. But when we speak of the fear of God the words move in one direction only: our fear of God. Why? Isn’t fear reciprocal in the same sense that love is? Breathing, with its in and its out, its exhalation and its inhalation, its reversal of direction, says yes. It is indeed so. Amen.

So voice it. The fear of God. Our fear of God, God’s fear of us. As my voice teacher said when I put it to him: it gives a different ring to the old phrase “God fearing persons”.

I ask myself: is this where Clermont has been leading me all these years?


Laughter at the Foot of the Cross

It is the title of a wonderful book by M A Screech, on Erasmus, Rabelais and the other great humanist writers of the Renaissance and the early Reformation.

In trying to voice God’s fear I am taken back into psychotic and hysteric experience of the kind I got to know so well in Zurich. In reading Screech’s book I realise how many have been there before. The crazed confusion has been well charted.

Here is an extract, the closing paragraphs from his Chapter 29, Christ’s Mad Disciples: Erotic Madness.

Paul’s Greek would recall to the minds of many a Humanist that similar contrasts between the ‘man of sound mind’ and the man given over to a divine mania can be found in Plato. The verb used for the madness of Paul is the same as that used by Mark for the madness of Christ. The fusion of Christian ecstasy with platonic mania became almost complete. That privileged rapture of St Paul’s, those rare raptures which, for Erasmus and so many others, are ‘very, very like dementia’, were seen as the Christian expression of the highest form of the four manias recognised by Socrates. As Erasmus notes, Theophylcat, Bishop of Ochrida, ‘attributes insanity here to St Paul, but an insanity which is amatory, erotike. St Paul’s passionate love of God is just such an erotic love. It was not agape. It is a spiritual Eros: the adoring response to the revealed goodness of God. Being a form of madness it can and does seem laughable. Socrates already knew that.

Such intense love for God is not confined to the more obvious places. If divine madness provokes laughter from the worldlings, then there are numerous places in Scripture where laughter is unexpectedly called forth. For Agostino Steucho, a contemporary of Erasmus, what happened to Adam might do so. In his Cosmopeia on Genesis, he was one of many theologians who explained that when God said, ‘Let us make man in our own image’, God as Trinity used the royal plural. But then God as Unity linked that plural us to a singular noun: ‘our own image’. Under a veil, God was hinting at plurality-in-unity, at the unity of the Trinity. Adam was in fact created after the image and in the likeness of the Son. As soon as Adam was thus created he glimpsed the beauty of his Prototype, who exceeded in beauty the finite beauty of any creature whatsoever. With such beauty he fell ecstatically in love. For love of his Prototype, Adam was driven mad.

That Prototype is that same Son whose glory Peter and the chosen disciples glimpsed through a cloud at the Transfiguration. By that unique foretaste of Christ’s glory those disciples too were caught away, falling into ecstasies of amazement. It was a mad ecstasy. Peter babbled he knew not what. Origen thought it probable that Peter at that time was diabolically possessed. Erasmus wove that mad ecstasy of Peter and the chosen disciples into the fabric of the Moria at its climax, with its fine and subtle laughter.

Moses, too, saw God in a rapture: in that sense being like Paul. Paul’s rapture was altogether exceptional. Peter’s was an extraordinary privilege. Such privileges make those who receive them abstracted, beside themselves, incoherent.

To the world, which laughs, they seem mad. There is madness in plenty on the surface of Scripture: much more was ingeniously to be found divinely hidden within it. As Cornelius Jansenius reminded his readers, the very verb ‘to prophesy’ can also mean ‘to be deranged’.

“Now those who were inspired by the Holy Spirit and uttered very unusual things – for which they were taken for insane and beside themselves by carnal men (since the flesh calls insane whatever exceeds its grasp) – were said to prophesy, therefore to prophesy is sometimes used in Scripture for to be deranged, or to be insane and to utter unusual things under the influence of an evil spirit.”

Jesus was thought to be prophesying in that mad sense in the third chapter of St Mark. And when he was flogged and laughed at before the Crucifixion, he was urged to prophesy.Quote close

Well charted crazing indeed. But my voicing of the nativity persuades me that our christian madness is accessible today in ways that have not previously been spoken of.


Surprised by gender

For instance, what did the Holy Ghost sound like in my nativity play?

As I say, I’ve forgotten. But my forgetting reminds me of another play, so let me return once again to Shakespeare, and how he gets us playing with “the bloody difference between male and female appetite, and between the ways in which those appetites are metabolised”.

In 1985, in one of our Sesame led weekends of enactment at Hawkwood College in Gloucestershire, we took as our play Measure for Measure. In the years since, I have found myself returning to my experience that weekend again and again. Why?

First, a reminder of Shakespeare’s plot.

1. The Duke of Vienna has handed over his authority to his deputy Angelo, on the pretence of going on a long journey. In fact, he remains in hiding and in disguise in the city to observe events.

2. Angelo is intent on strict enforcement of the city laws against sexual licence, and to this end sentences young Claudio to death for having got his betrothed pregnant before they were married.

3. Isabella, the sister of Claudio, is about to enter a holy order as a nun, but agrees to leave her nunnery (she has not yet taken her vows) to plead with Angelo for her brother’s life. She does so, and the strict and apparently asexual Angelo is fiercely and consumingly attracted to her. In the second of two interviews he tells her he will reprieve her brother if she goes to bed with him. Horrified, Isabella refuses. When she explains Angelo’s offer to her brother, Claudio pleads with her to accede to Angelo’s wish, to sacrifice her virginity to save his life.

4. As brother and sister fall apart in mutual recrimination, the Duke emerges, in disguise, to begin to straighten things out.

5. The plan he proposes is that Mariana, who was once betrothed to Angelo, then rejected by him when she appeared to have lost her dowry, but who nevertheless still continues to love him and want him as her husband, should substitute herself for Isabella in the darkness of the night, so that Angelo makes love (if that is the right word) to her, thinking that she is Claudio’s sister, the nun-to-be for whom he has conceived so sharp a desire.

6. This plan is agreed to by both Isabella and Mariana, and it is out of the subsequent sightless sexual encounter between Mariana and Angelo that the play reaches its denouement.

The part I was given in our enactment was that of Mariana. I had to have sex with Angelo in the nighttime darkness of his garden, pretending to be another woman. Which meant that in the scene which I was to enact sexual desire was playfully, ludicrously, perhaps maliciously but perhaps also forgivingly, confused as to its object. Of the two bodies involved, one knew who the other was, one did not. And this particular scene was driven forward by all that had gone before, a developing plot energised by sexual desire: desire as free and fruitful outside the law,

desire as worthy of sacrifice, desire as something to be tightly and if necessarily cruelly disciplined, desire as able to penetrate and turn round even its most dedicated enemy.

What did we make of it?

In terms of production the two important decisions were to cast a woman as Angelo and a man, myself, as Mariana, and to represent the darkness by having Angelo blindfold. The effect was to make the scene both comic and deadly serious. The obviousness of the gender reversal emphasised sexual ambiguity of a kind we associate with the circus or the burlesque theatre. The blindfolded groping, the intensity of the hidden gaze, brought something terrible into the performance, responding to its setting within the wider plot of the play in which sexual desire and death are crossed in sado-masochistic imagery; for instance, when Isabella whose part Mariana has taken in bed can reject Angelo’s proposal in his office with
…were I under the terms of death
Th’impression of keen whips I’d wear as rubies,
And strip myself to death as to a bed
That long I have been sick for, ere I’d yield
My body up to shame.

The memory of that performance has stayed with me ever since, both as comfort and as incitement. As long as I can remember, sexual desire has involved for me more or less insistent intimations of gender reversal. The extraordinary effect of that blindfold as my predatory lover took my body mistakenly as the body of another is now always with me as a reminder that sexual desire may be intentionally deceived as to its object. To have acted all that, to have shown it to an audience, has made me more bold in owning to experiences for which I had previously had no name. Perhaps it is possible to be confused as to the object of desire without necessarily being as peculiar as I used to fear. More: perhaps such confusion defines the workings of sexuality more accurately than society likes to admit.

Which could be one reason why society has such urgent need of theatre.

In theatre we realise that the space between stage and audience is not empty. It is full of make up. It pulses with energy plotted by an author who is absent. Actor and audience are brought together by an art which is not their own.

Think for a moment of the two words making up. Pause between them. Allow yourself to hear them as it were for the first time. Making. Up. Now, together: making up. As actors we use make up. As audience we make up our mind to go to the play, or as the French say, to assist at the play. But the play is made up too. In the theatre different kinds of making up have to negotiate with each other. Theatre is a sharing in the making up of human society, in what anthropologists call ‘the social construction of reality’. Making up is how we negotiate that construction.

Measure for Measure is about the social construction of gender. In enacting the play without words there is no escape from this. Muscular and nervous energy is committed to representing gender as artifice. Brothels, the condemned cell, law courts as necessary but both stupid and cruel, the comforts and demands of religion, the joy and fear of pregnancy, marriage as an exchange of property, they are all about the social construction of gender.

At the heart of the play, the moment when it pivots between tragedy and resolution, a moment which is off stage and usually preceded in the theatre by the interval for drinks, refreshment and fresh air, is the scene in which the social construction of sexuality is celebrated as artifice. As Angelo mistakenly fucks Mariana lust and betrothal, property and marriage, are brought together by an artifice that is both comic and deadly serious.

I don’t think we can feel that “both” without allowing for surprise of a kind that is beyond us. Could it make sense to think of it as God’s surprise? After all, to discover that you had made both male and female in your own image could be more of a surprise than you had bargained for.


That penis again

Still with my voicing of the nativity in mind, the coming of the Holy Ghost to that virgin mother to be:

Here are the closing paragraphs of Leo Steinberg’s The Sexuality of Christ in Renaissance Art and in Modern Oblivion (1983). He is describing and reflecting on certain fifteenth century carvings of the risen Christ with His Father, in which the Father’s hand rests on the Son’s (clothed) groin.

There is something disquieting in these presentations; and this leads me, hesitantly, to a final reflection of the kind I have sought to avoid. It will not have escaped the reader that my discussion has left out of account all psychological considerations; such factors as may operate in the Christological creed itself, and such psychic determinants as may have influenced individual artists. As to the first, I gladly leave it to students of disciplines other than mine. Nor am I inclined to speculate on the inner motives of painters who chose to involve the sexuality of Christ in their iconography. If personal or subconscious drives motivated this or that artist in his approach to the Christ theme, these drives were ultimately subordinated to his grasp of the subject, since the treatment he accorded the subject must be compatible with the liturgical function which the work was to serve – often as a commissioned altarpiece in a place of public worship. And monumental images of the Trinity were certainly destined for altars. Their meaning, as I understand it, was to give visible form to a climactic liturgical moment, the moment of the petition in the rite of the Roman Mass when, at the transubstantiation of the Eucharistic species into the sacramental body of Christ, that body sacrificed is offered to the Father with prayers for its acceptance. The Throne of Grace, as the Apostle called it (Hebrews 4:16), is the idea of the sacrificed Son in his acceptability to the Father. Visualised as the triune godhead enriched by the humanity of the Second Person, it had been a familiar theme since the 12th century.

But what makes the images I am citing rare and psychologically troubling is the Father’s intrusive gesture, his unprecedented acknowledgment of the Son’s loins. Nothing in received iconography sanctions it; and common intuition proscribes it. Joyce’s Stephen Dedalus speaks of the steadfast bodily shame by which sons and fathers are sundered. “They are sundered by a bodily shame so steadfast that the criminal annals of the world, stained with all other incests and bestialities hardly record its breach” (Ulysses, Episode IX). He perceived their severance, the distancing of their persons through shame of body, as the way of all flesh. And precisely this shame caves in now before our eyes. Natural distance collapses in this coalition of Persons wherein the divine Father’s only-begotten is (as theology has it) a virgin, virginally conceived; enfleshed, sexed, circumcised, sacrificed, and so restored to the Throne of Grace; there symbolising not only the aboriginal unity of the godhead, but in its more dramatic, more urgent message, a conciliation which stands for the atonement, the being-at-one, of man and God. For this atonement, on which hinges the Christian hope of salvation, Northern Renaissance art found the painfully intimate metaphor of the Father’s hand on the groin of the Son; breaching a universal taboo as the fittest symbol of reconcilement. Such a symbol can only have sprung from an artist attuned to the deep underflow of his feelings. And it would not surprise me if its originator turned out to be, once again, Roger van der Weyden. It is perhaps more surprising that a handful of painters, engravers, and carvers understood the metaphor well enough to adopt and to imitate it – before everyone was educated into incomprehension, But this incomprehension – the “oblivion” to which the title of this essay refers – is profound, willed, and sophisticated, it is the price paid by the modern world for its massive historic retreat from the mythical grounds of Christianity.Quote close

And here is Maurice Bloch writing of virgin birth and how it could take the place of male circumcision.

The concept of the virgin birth is something of a misnomer since the central idea that lies behind the doctrine is not about the absence of sexual intercourse but rather about the presence of Mary’s intercourse with the divine. It is an idea about mediation, the entry of a male divine into an earthly woman. As such, the idea refers to many of the themes which have been touched on in the earlier part of this book. Sexual and marital relations are often merged with ideas about the conquest of vitality by a transcendental subject for its own purposes. Thus, if Christian theology was the imitation of Christ and if Paul was asking Christians to die with Christ and become transcendent themselves, the virgin birth was the invitation to celebrate the re-entry of the divine into the vital through the sexual conquest of a woman, a conquest which must have involved all the overtones of violence which sex and marriage have always carried in Mediterranean cultures. Although, unlike some of our other examples, the believers probably identified in this case less with the penetrator than the penetrated the basic pattern remains the same. In other words the idea of the virgin birth was one of the ways in which the image of the second conquest of rebounding violence was reintroduced, an image which had originally been abandoned in the more millenarian phase of very early Christianity.

The image of the virgin birth thus took on the symbolic place vacated by the abandonment of the centrality of Jewish obedience to the law of Moses and of circumcision in the period when millenarianism stopped being dominant in Christianity. The idea of the virgin birth then became particularly suitable to a church which saw itself, like Mary, as the continuing earthly vessel of the divine, ‘the bride of Christ’.Quote close

In that voicing of the nativity, did my voice have to identify either with penetrator or with penetrated? Is that why I forget? Is there a choice which it is better not to remember? Or are other soundings possible?

The dream in which the Clermont story originated had to do with gender and its confusion, and the rudeness that can go with it. “Anyway, I’ll be seeing you more and more with less and less clothes on”, followed by “I chide him for this”. If we are to return to the mythical grounds of christianity we will need to be able get beyond that chiding, into the confusion it fears. There’s something very simple and very critical that’s got lost in our profound, willed, and sophisticated oblivion. Whatever is in play between the Yes and the No of the two virgins may be surprising in ways that we have chosen to forget.


Publishing my dreams

Clermont originated in a dream. The work I have done on it over fifty years is saturated through and through with my dreams. The decision to publish some seven hundred of these, dating from between 1948 and 1998, helps bring that work to its conclusion by placing the sexuality of Clermont in a very much wider context. In particular, with reference to evolutionary theory.

Jung alerted me to the possibility that my dreams could be about inheritance. For more than thirty five years as a practising psychologist a crucial problem in my work has been to distinguish, and to help others distinguish, between what is inherited and what learned. The explosion of interest in evolutionary psychology during the last twenty years has made this question more compelling, more political, more suggestive of unrealised possibilities.

But, as usual with me, there is a problem with time.

If some dreams are indeed about an inherited agenda, how do they relate or compare with those other dreams, or those other parts of the same dream, which refer to events of yesterday? What goes on between inheritance and the eventfulness of daily life?

I find that there is a problem here which neither the evolutionists nor Jung seem to recognise. It is about the difference between history and nature.

It seems to me that the evolutionists collapse history into nature. I am fascinated by the way evolutionary studies are opening imagination, sensitivity, research, responsability, into agendas of which our ancestors knew precious little. I find their work comprehensively persuasive. It speaks to me, body and mind, awake and asleep. But I disagree with them. I disagree with them on time. My feeling about time seems to be very different from theirs.

Evolutionary theory changes by the month, by the year, by the decade. ‘Almost overnight’ in some cases, as one exponent has put it. I want to ask: how does this short term change in our understanding of evolution relate to the hugely long term of its subject matter?

From time to time my dreams draw attention to the difference between the long term and the short term. Sometimes I have thought of these dreams as being about dying. But as they recur they seem to be saying something more comprehensive, something of which the fact that one day or night I am going to die is only an example. The difference to which they are drawing my attention is not quantitative. It is qualitative. Somewhere along the line the difference between the short term and the long term ceases to be a question of quantity. It becomes a question of quality.

Evolutionary theory seems to be aware of this. There is highly charged debate about ‘the sudden’. But I think there is a simple point to be made. I spoke of it in Jung and the Third Person. It is about the invention of sex and death now. There are questions to be asked here which presume on a difference between history and nature. They can’t arise if we do not allow for that difference. Historical time is not the same as evolutionary time. Evolution is not a vast extension of history. There is a disjunction between history and nature in which we are caught, and to which we are seeking to respond.

I think Clermont is about this disjunction. Read together with my published dreams, it seems to me obvious that what Clermont is saying about christianity, time, and sexuality, belongs within the debate that has been going on for two hundred years and more between Biblical and evolutionary views of creation.



To take that debate on we have to speak of God.

Christianity began preaching the incarnation of God, both preaching and incarnation being made possible by the power of the Holy Spirit. According to Clermont, it went on to ingest that power, making possible the God driven exploitation of God’s creation. We are responsible for that ingestion, responsible towards both past and future. Both directions refer us to body, the body of Christ, body as we know it in our world. We are called to listen to what body is saying.

What we are hearing is that we are responsable for an experiment. It is not a nice experiment. It’s messy, wonderful, wasteful, cruel. No, not atall nice. But it is an experiment for which we have response ability. What I am writing here is an attempt to exercise that ability.

I have already spoken of the need to “get the feeling right”. In the language of Jung’s psychology, I am a “feeling type”, and I am sure that if we are to exercise the responsibility that is ours we must have God in mind. Remembering always how crazed mind can be.

Dreams remember the crazing well.

In my published dream book I have this to say about God:

The sense of God in my dreams is
of a face that I cannot bear to look upon;
of person with the likeness of male and female, yet compellingly, obscenely, inclusively, It;
of body making up mind;
of mind translating body;
of hunger conceiving its own satisfaction;
of taste made questionable;
of originality dependent on responsibility;
of gratuitous opportunity;
of cleanliness that can drive us mad;
of experiment that crosses agency with suffering;
of riddling;
of direction uniquely reversed;
of blood on the leaves of a tree.Quote close

Such crazing. But that is what our night time has to go on.

Let me take just two of those senses of God – of direction uniquely reversed, and of a face that I cannot bear to look upon.



From the beginning I have known that Clermont is somehow about masturbation, masturbation as I know it set against masturbation as christian theology would have me know it, masturbation as the way into the eternal begetting of the Son. Much that I have written about Clermont has been informed by that knowledge.

In April 1954, in my dream of the Tree and Pool, that image of “reversal of direction” gave both stammer and masturbation a role in the world out there. In the last twenty years, thanks perhaps to our need to respond to AIDS, masturbation has become easier to talk about publicly. We have all benefited. But it was only in 1996, when I read Joel Ryce-Menuhin’s chapter on “The Alchemy of Masturbation” in his Naked and Erect: Male Sexuality and Feeling, that I realised how shy I had been in speaking of my own experience.

Writing of the alchemical transformation of prima materia Joel is explicit.

This procedure reminds one of masturbatory excitement, because rigid or fixed aspects of personality are sexually transformed back towards their more primitive undifferentiated condition of ecstasy (paradise in the Garden of Eden) as the regressive pull which heralds the psychic transformation of deep orgasm. The body becomes a temple of passionate pleasure, almost innocent in its return to first sexual experience, autoeroticism, or masturbation. (p.18)Quote close

Joel’s book got me rereading Jung’s alchemical works with masturbation constantly in mind. Taken together with my dreams, my changing and aging sexual practice, and what I hear in my consulting room, the effect is startling, startling in its simplicity, startling in its range. I am persuaded that masturbation gives us immediate access to that “invention of the method of invention” which I have written about so often in my Clermont papers.

I’ve said some pretty crazed things about time in these papers. Perhaps most evident in Sacred Hunger: “time’s hunger for its own fulfilment”. What on earth does that mean? Think of masturbation. Try to be more explicit about the hunger that finds its fulfilment in masturbation. Read some of Jung’s stuff on alchemy. Look at some of those alchemical pictures. Better still, act them, as some of us once did. And then ask yourself: is it possible that when I masturbate I am trying to act out what it feels like for the present to have to keep coming and going?

Don’t be too afraid if it sounds like dangerous nonsense. Think of our breathing, of the in breath and the out breath. What happens to the in breath when the out breath takes over? A sort of killing? A killing that reverses direction, making nonsense of what went before? And how does that “go” with what happens when the in breath takes over from the out? I think we get close to something like that “go” in masturbation.

There is a whole world of feeling, imagination, narrative, practice, in masturbation that is denied access to public discourse. It is both artificial and sacrificial. We are ashamed to share it (perhaps because of the way it mixes artifice and sacrifice?). Much of that shame is christian in origin. We need to overcome it, to begin comparing experience of the compulsion and comfort of masturbation, of the direction which its narratives take. When we do so, there will be a sea change in our exercise of responsibility between history and nature.

Men and women will get a better idea of what’s going on between us. Which will spill over into the way money talks. Public assumptions about the purpose of the body and about how that purpose fits the world will be opened to turbulent and tumultuous currents of private imagination. Economics, the language in which we talk about consumption and production and investment, will allow its debt to sexuality. The capital markets will learn to talk more rudely, more privately, about their flailing flaying mix of fear with greed, of greed with fear. As they do so, we will recognise the motor which is driving us for what it is – the longing for a time of our own making.

Self abuse: that’s what masturbation used to be called. We were, and still are, accused of enjoying self abuse. Remember those words as we study the history of our modern science. Keep them turning over in thinking about our global economics, our exploitation of genetic research, the acceleration of pointless communication. Let them sink in. Rub them in. Work them into the friction of environmental protest and the adrenalin of the futures markets. We are very familiar with something we just don’t let on about. Start talking about it, and we could find ourselves accepting economic responsability of a new kind, responsibility that is implicated in the creation of time and of the absolute terror of disappointment that goes with it.

Rudery and mystery. Masturbation is a good example of how they belong together. It raises two questions, criss crossing them and twining them round each other. First, what is our sexuality for? Then, how does it feel to be inside the beat of time, spending, killing, saving, marking – all in one? Making room for them, for the criss crossing and the intertwining, is not easy. They catalyse feelings that can be violently antagonistic. Think of contraception and abortion. Then start wondering whether the feelings orchestrated by those two words belong also in our capital markets and in our research laboratories.


Facing Likeness

A face that I cannot bear to look upon. Voicework has made me aware of my face in new ways. “Don’t avoid the difficult words”, advised the expert at the Warneford Hospital stammer clinic. In exercises designed to meet this avoidance, as breathing moves stammer out of body into sound, my face twitches, contorts. More: my face senses a sort of ‘film’ out there, a film it wants to touch and be touched by. The film is both personal and impersonal. It is as if what is out there is seeking to touch my face in order to make itself known.

Something extraordinary happens. There is a kind of seizure. The face as mask: this I know well from theatre. But this is more. Theatrical experience of the face as mask is suddenly quick with a power that is out there, the power of likeness.

Likeness is a word that has grown on me over nearly fifty years. Starting with Christine Brooke Rose’s A Grammar of Metaphor, which I helped edit when I was with Secker & Warburg. Then Christine put me onto the work of Owen Barfield. By which time likeness had become my way into the theology of creation.

Facing likeness. What’s it like, this presence of mine in the world? What’s it like, this world I find myself in? Likeness vibrates in and on and against my face, apprehensive of creation.

In the Afterword to my dream book I have this to say about likeness.

My fullest attempt to explain what likeness means to me was in a talk given in 1988 called “Making an Appearance: the hazard of being a person and our stake in the theatre”. I speak there of the distinction between subject and object, and of our need to play with that distinction. I bring as examples experience in acting Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Measure for Measure. I refer to evolutionary theories as to how recognition of likeness arises in an echoic answer in dance and song, and to Owen Barfield’s book Saving the Appearances.

Throughout I am concerned to emphasise that likeness is not sameness. Likeness is about sameness and difference. There is a gulf, a hiatus, between sameness and difference. Likeness acknowledges that gulf, that hiatus, allows it to be just so, yet also crosses over between. In the same moment as it is said: they are not the same, they are different, it is also said: but they are alike, and that alikeness is how both we and the world are made. The world is like. We are like. It is how things are.

Likeness is quick with art (Shakespeare’s Winter’s Tale, the play which first brought home to me that responsibility for likeness and time go together). Something HUGE (I take the word and the capitals from my dreaming) is at stake. The verb to make pulses in the air. The creative violence of the maker broods in the wings. When we liken one thing to another we assume the responsibility of an artist, a maker. We respond to an invitation from out there, and in doing so make ourselves responsible for that invitation.

Likeness is descriptive, evocative, submissive. It simultaneously describes, evokes, and submits to, things as they are. To get a sense of just how huge this happening is, reverse the order of those verbs. Likeness submits to the givenness of things, it calls forth that givenness, it describes it. All in one. What does it do to us? How do we respond?Quote close

Likeness takes us inside creation. Creation is all so different. Without likeness the difference wouldn’t add up. Likeness makes creation habitable. Likeness allows it all to belong together.

Facing likeness. Face, persona, personality. “I shall never believe in personality again”. Essentially experimental. The world as enactment. The theatricality of being. Feeling that is both sacrificial and artificial. Shiver of a special kind. If my dreams are to be trusted and there is indeed a face that I cannot bear to look upon, what is that saying about creation?

Christianity does something with creation that is absolutely terrifying. It calls it love. I think Clermont is an attempt to respond to that calling by raising the question of likeness.

Gender is crucial. In the dream in which Clermont originated the boy and the girl were so like each other that they were indistinguishable. Until puberty. Then, at the pool, on and within the water’s surface, in the reflection of face, likeness and love are trapped as one. Until the coming of the dove, the tearing of wing from wing, the drinking of the blood.


Skin, an indispensable viscus

But it’s not face only that is caught by likeness. Breathing exercises have familiarised me with how the body as a whole participates in the activity of pharynx and nose and mouth and eyes as inspiration gives way to expiration, expression to impression. Breathing not only in voicework, but also in exercises in the T’ai Chi class. We breathe through our skin. The skin of my face as it twitches and contorts and seeks out what is there is one with the breathing of my whole body.

So what is happening as my face reaches to touch and to be touched by likeness?

Here is what one contemporary neuroscientist has to say about skin.

The first idea that comes to mind when we think of the skin is that of an extended sensory sheet, turned to the outside, ready to help us construct the shape, surface, texture, and temperature of external objects, through the sense of touch. But the skin is far more than that. First, it is a key player in homeostatic regulation: it is controlled by direct autonomic neural signals from the brain, and by chemical signals from numerous sources. When you blush or turn pale, the blushing or pallor happens in the “visceral” skin, not really in the skin you know as a touch sensor. In its visceral role – the skin is, in effect, the largest viscus in the entire body – the skin helps regulate body temperature by setting the calibre of the blood vessels housed in the thick of it, and helps regulate the metabolism by mediating changes of ions (as when you perspire). The reason why people die from burns is not because they lose an integral part of their sense of touch. They die because the skin is an indispensable viscus. (Descartes’ Error, by Antonio Damasio, pp230-231.)Quote close

There’s more to the skin of my face than I thought. In voicing stammer I am exercising something visceral. As it reacts to that film of which it feels itself to be part, the skin of my face, this indispensable viscus, is reaching out to breathe, to sound, the world out there as it makes itself apparent.

I tried to demonstrate this at a meeting of the Oxford Psychotherapy Society in November 2000, using my voice as a kind of skin, and allowing for theatrical experience of the mask as more telling than the face. It led me to suggest to my colleagues that we could think of the body as “trying itself on to see if it fits and trying itself out to see if it works”.

Curiosity of a special kind. “Our feeling has to acknowledge and allow for shiver of a special kind, shiver that is both psychotic and worldly, personal and social. We have to imagine a fracturing of the air we breathe, a distortion of the light by which we see, a rupture in the rhythm of our breathing, a breaking of the word which makes human communication possible”.

I return to Clermont, to the surface of that pool and the coming of the dove. Skin. The film which cannot be broken, which cannot even be allowed a shiver. Then the tearing of the bird’s flesh. I think too of that crucified body we have been taught to worship, of my dreams of October 1948 and of March 1956, of the confusion between flaying and flailing and the clock that may perhaps be beginning to breathe. And I think of that family, of the father who so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, of the son who went along with it, of the mother who…………..

And “a cry goes forth. It is like a whisper, a murmuring, all but inaudible. And yet it pierces the ears. Like one of those whistles which dogs can hear, but humans not. A mute, inanimate cry from the fields and the rocks and the hills, from the movement of the waters and from the stillness of the sky: ‘For the love of God, don’t do this thing to us’. A cry from inanimate creation to the son of man not to go up to Jerusalem, not to set in train the sequence of events which would lead to crucifixion, resurrection, Pentecost.”

The world has a skin. Like mine. An indispensable viscus. That viscus has been well and truly christened. There is no getting away from that. But it’s breathing, and while it breathes there is, mercifully, always reversal of direction.


Fresh Argument

Working on the Clermont story for over fifty years has taught me that the feeling in it (which is excessive) can only be contained and processed by argument of a particular kind: argument between christian and non christian. I am asking for help with that argument.

There is something wrong with christianity that affects the whole world. The only way I can do anything about it is in being christian. We are responsible for the God driven exploitation (or can it be enjoyment?) of what was once God’s creation. The responsability is as it were lodged in and between our words time, sex, hunger, invention, money – with time at the centre and the others dancing round it. We are called to assume it as our responsibility, ours to take on, ours to do something about.

To answer that call, christians are going to have to admit that we have got it wrong, non christians that we are living off a christian secret that we do not understand.

That is what my work on the Clermont story has been about: trying to articulate a dilemma to which both non christian and christian are party. Articulating it has to allow for protest, for tradition, for prophecy. Tradition that is open to prophecy, prophecy that is open to tradition, and between the two, protest: protest against tradition, protest against prophecy. (remembering that the verb ‘to prophesy’ can also mean ‘to be deranged’).

The six papers in Part II, written over a period of twenty years, attempt this articulation, this spelling out. Can we use them to get fresh argument going between us?

Experience has shown that it’s not easy. It can feel gratuitously offensive. Surely there are things better left unsaid? Or it can feel hugely exaggerated, quite unnecessarily over the top. Or, and this is perhaps even more tricky, it can be obscurely exciting. The mix of obscurity and excitement does not invite confidence. Like what I’ve talked about as hysteric and psychotic. But I need to try, and I cannot do it alone.

Of one thing I am sure. We have to recover a sense of time as given into our keeping. Working on these Clermont papers I have come to suspect that christianity, in its theology of redemption, in laying claim to the one and only, once and for all, perfect sacrifice, has led us to believe that we can presume on time as saved, as something there for us. A world which thinks of itself as “post christian” has forgotten christian premonitions of judgment to come. It’s going to have to remember.

Which we won’t like. As Whitehead warned us at the beginning of the last century (p ) it is not popular to dwell on the absolute contradiction on which we have come to rely.



Tradition, Protest, Prophecy

Jung and Marx: Alchemy, Christianity, and the Work Against Nature

(Public lecture given at the Royal Society of Medicine, London, on 21 November, 1974, under the auspices of the Analytical Psychology Club.)

I have announced this lecture under the title Jung and Marx: Alchemy, Christianity, and the Work against Nature. As what I have to say is rather strange, I think it will help us all if I start by explaining how these various ideas will be related to each other.

The central idea, round which the others are organised, is of the work against nature. I want to try to say something about the work against nature in which we all share. What I mean by this work will, I hope, emerge as my argument develops. It will emerge through my use of two words which are familiar but not easy to define: creator and virgin.

I shall not try to define what I mean by creator and virgin. I shall limit myself to try to describe a space between creator and virgin, for it is in this space that I believe the work against nature is being done. And it is in order to describe this space that I am bringing together the names of Jung and Marx.

To describe a space physically needs two movements of the imagination, one which expands and one which contracts: the two movements which Jung called extraversion and introversion. I shall be using the work of Marx to stimulate the extraverted movement of the imagination, and the work of Jung to stimulate the introverted.

Between the two, I hope we will become aware of the need for work of a very special kind. I shall be using some reflections on alchemy and christianity to try to illuminate the nature of this work. I want to use alchemy, as Jung interpreted it in terms of psyche, as the way into a questioning of what christianity has done to the relation between man and nature. In asking this question I hope to convey some sense of what I mean by creator and virgin.

So my argument will develop in five stages. First, I want to introduce Jung’s interest in alchemy. Then I shall give a brief exposition of one aspect of Marx’s thought. This introduces the idea of man as involved in nature’s coming-to-self-consciousness. I shall then define my own attitude to this idea of Marx’s, as a transition to the other main line of my argument: what christianity has done to man and nature. I conclude by saying the little that I can say about the work being done between creator and virgin.

1. Jung’s work on alchemy is in the fullest sense of the word surprising. Some of you will be familiar with it. To others it may be unknown. So let me start by reading you three extracts from his autobiography, in which he describes how alchemy became one of the main interests of the last thirty years of his life.

I had very soon seen that analytical psychology coincided in a most curious way with alchemy. The experiences of the alchemists were, in a sense, my experiences, and their world was my world. This was, of course, a momentous discovery: I had stumbled upon the historical counterpart of my psychology of the unconscious. The possibility of a comparison with alchemy, and the uninterrupted intellectual chain back to Gnosticism, gave substance to my psychology.(1)

Since my aim was to demonstrate the full extent to which my psychology corresponded to alchemy – or vice versa – I wanted to discover, side by side with the religious questions, what special problems of psychotherapy were treated in the work of the alchemists. The main problem of medical psychotherapy is the transference……I was able to demonstrate that alchemy, too, had something that corresponded to the transference, namely the concept of the coniunctio….(2)

Now what Jung is saying here is really very odd indeed. It is so extraordinary that we may easily slide over it without feeling the surprise which we should. One of my aims this evening is to try to convey something of that sense of surprise.

What is this ‘psychology of alchemy’ which Jung has left behind him? My thesis is that it belongs in the world of extraversion as well as of introversion, and that its extraverted mode is expressed in the intercourse between man and nature which we call economics. I want to try to establish some links between psychology and economics, in the belief that Jung’s psychology of alchemy contains resources of imagination, humour and will, which could help us deal with the economic problems of today and tomorrow. But to make this link between psychology, alchemy and economics, we need ‘space’ of an unusual kind.

Before I go on to define this space, I want to emphasise the provenance of the ideas I shall be expressing. They derive primarily from a series of my own dreams. The earliest in the series which I remember dated from 1948, when I was 22. The most recent was six years ago. The reading and thinking that lie behind these ideas originates in the need to understand dreams. What this says about the relevance of my argument for you depends on what you make of your own dreaming. But I am sure that what I am saying this evening will mislead unless its provenance in dreams is borne in mind.

2. Marx’s vision, or analysis, of man’s intercourse with nature will be familiar to many of us here this evening. But for all its familiarity, it remains difficult. For the very brief exposition which I want to try now, I shall take as my way into his thought his analysis of the changing nature of money.

Up to about the year 1400 the economic life of Europe was essentially agricultural, concerned with the same kind of problems which we now associate with the so-called ‘third world’. There were exceptions which in retrospect can seem very significant. But taken as a whole, economic activity constituted a closed circle between man and nature, with nothing left over. Between 1400 and 1700 this closed circle broke open and began spiralling, both ‘out’ and ‘in’, to include within the economic process a wider and ever increasing number of commodities and desires. From 1700 onwards this spiral became more like an explosion, until today we have a situation in which on the one hand the whole system can be kept going only by the creation of new needs out of luxuries that were themselves unheard of a generation earlier, while on the other hand it is becoming more and more widely accepted that this stimulation of new needs is destroying an essential balance within the natural environment.

Within the closed system that prevailed – with significant exceptions – up to about 1400, money was essentially the medium of exchange, something to facilitate the barter of the market place. It served to lubricate a process of exchange whose driving energy was the natural cycle of agricultural seasons, supplemented by the skills and muscular energy of man. Since 1700, although it retains its old function of lubricating the economic system, money has also become the fuel which fires the engine which drives the whole system along. It is this change in the nature of money that Karl Marx described as the emergence of capitalism.

Marx is the prophet of this split in our experience of money. He lived and wrote at a time when the first industrial revolution had already transformed conditions of life in Britain, France, Germany, and the Netherlands, and was reaching out to alter the face of our planet more radically – in relation to the passage of time – than in any previous revolution in the history of man. Marx insisted that something unprecedented was happening, and that the split in our experience of money, of which the power of capital was the outward and visible manifestation, was only one aspect of a much more pervasive and radical alteration in the whole balance between man and nature.

This unprecedented shift of balance between man and nature is today widely discussed in terms of ecology, in terms of the relationship between man and his environment. It is therefore perhaps easier for us today to understand Marx if we listen to what he has to say with the contemporary arguments of ecologists in mind.

Marx was deeply impressed by the way in which this split between money as means of exchange, and money as self-generating capital, seemed at the same time both to make possible and also to justify the technological exploitation of the planet on which the industrial societies of Western Europe had embarked. He argued that the result of this interpenetration of the monetary and technological revolutions was altering the very quality of human life. All previous history had been that of men living in a world that was given. But now men were learning what it was to live in a world that was to an ever increasing degree made by man, rather than given to man, in a world whose conditions were determined not by the gifts of nature, but by the manufactures of man. Marx’s political economics studied the effects of this revolution on the social relations between human beings, but he emphasised again and again that to understand what was happening to personal development within this new technological and capitalist society, man must be aware of what is happening to the much more fundamental relation between the creativity of man and the material world of which man is part.

It is here that Marx touches the central idea with which I am concerned in placing his work alongside Jung’s psychology of alchemy. He is defining a split, what he called an ‘alienation’, of a new kind: an alienation of man from nature, where nature is to be thought of both as man’s own nature and also as the natural world in which man makes his living. The peculiar quality of this alienation emerges from his description of how money has succeeded in breaking the circle of man’s intercourse with nature.

Money has its origin in the market place where we go to exchange what we have but don’t need, for what we need but don’t have. Money is the medium which facilitates this exchange, but in so doing it converts the immaterial process of exchange into a thing which can itself be exchanged for other things. It is as if when things are exchanged in the market place a new power is born, a power that breaks out of the circle of man’s intercourse with nature. This power has no existence in nature, yet manages to establish itself in its own right as existing over against both man and nature.

Marx believed that with the coming of the industrial revolution, and of the concurrent financial revolution that made money out of credit, this break in the circle of man’s intercourse with nature became absolute, so that the circle fell apart into a polarisation. On the one hand, we see the emergence of capital as an apparently autonomous power, able to breed out of itself with no sense of obligation to the material exchange in which it had its origin. On the other hand, we see the emergence of wage labour, which is bought and sold in the market place like any other thing, and thus valued never for itself but always for something other than itself.

But Marx did not stop at this economic analysis. He gave it another dimension altogether. He argued that with this differentiation between capital and labour a truth becomes conscious that has never been conscious before. He argues that in the consciousness of wage labour as it confronts the power of capital, nature, which in itself is virgin, becomes aware for the first time what it means to be used for a purpose outside itself.

3. I want to stop there in my exposition of Marx’s vision of the world he saw around him rather more than a hundred years ago. In selecting this one way into his comprehensive and detailed economic analysis, I am inevitably being unfair to his scholarship. But it is this seminal idea of nature coming, through man, to a new self-consciousness, which I want to place alongside Jung’s psychology of alchemy. So let me repeat once again the formulation at which we have arrived: the thesis that in the consciousness of wage labour as it confronts the power of capital, nature, which in itself is virgin, becomes aware for the first time what it means to be used for a purpose outside itself.

I believe that this is the idea which gives Marxism as we know it today, a hundred years after the death of its founder, its dynamism and fascination. I believe it to be true that a new consciousness of what it means for nature to be used for a purpose outside itself is now lodged within man. And I believe that if we, as the one world which we are become, are to solve the economic problems confronting us, it is essential that we all play our part in trying to understand what this new consciousness means for our way of life.

But this belief does not make me a Marxist. It is not only that all my training and material interests make me conservative, with both a small and a large ‘c’. Marx, it seems to me, gave to this essentially true insight a twist which has thrown it disastrously off centre. He introduced into his economic analysis messianic expectations of which he was unconscious and he located this messianism in a new chosen people, the people he called the proletariat.

If we are to assimilate Marx’s recognition of the new ‘humanisation of society’ into the great conservative and radical traditions of our society, we must learn to understand these messianic expectations. We have to ask how the judaeo-christian messianism which informs the whole body of Marxism affects our economic condition. And to do this I believe we must concern ourselves with man’s masochism and sadism when face to face with ‘that which in itself is virgin’.

How does Marx’s vision relate to the long and confused history of judaeo-christian messianic psychology? I think most students of the history of ideas would agree that the answer lies in the philosophy of Hegel, and in the way Marx used and altered this philosophy. Certainly it was in Hegel’s work that I found my first bridge from Marx to Jung, twenty five years ago.

Jung has written of Hegel’s philosophy:

The victory of Hegel over Kant dealt the gravest blow to reason and to the further development of the German and, ultimately, of the European mind, all the more dangerous as Hegel was a psychologist in disguise who projected great truths out of the subjective sphere into a cosmos he himself had created.(4)

I think much of Jung’s psychology can be read as a translation of Hegel’s philosophy into the experiences of ordinary men and women. In particular, I think this is true of Jung’s interest as a psychologist in the ways in which the modern psyche questions what is to become of the christian revelation. Hegel’s philosophy has often been interpreted as an extension of christian theology. A recent study by Hans Küng, for instance, has the title: God becoming man: an introduction to Hegel’s theological thought as prolegomena to a future christology. Though he makes no mention of Jung, Hans Küng develops ideas which are familiar to readers of Jung’s essays on the psychological significance of the Trinity and the transformation symbolism of the Mass. These, and other, close connections between Jung’s psychology and Hegel’s philosophy will be much studied in the years to come.

One result of such study will be to place Marx’s Hegelian heritage in a wider and – dare we say it? – more feminine context. Within this feminine world we can find the resources of imagination, humour and will with which to assimilate the masochism and sadism which Marx has done so much to stimulate in the modern psyche.

Marx’s rejection of Hegel’s idealism, and his conversion of that idealism into his own historical materialism can be understood in terms of a future christology if we are so minded. But medieval alchemy foretold the work of both Hegel and Marx within a tradition which kept alive the memory of what christology had done to nature. Within this tradition we have descriptions of the spontaneous response of the human psyche to the ‘alienation’ described by Hegel and Marx. If we study Marx against this background we will, I believe, be better equipped to analyse how his messianic expectations can be related to our present economic predicament as nature begins to reassert her right to be what she is in herself.

4. Students of the history of ideas present alchemy either as a woefully unscientific precursor to modern chemistry, or as a more or less bogus attempt to find sudden wealth through the artificial production of gold, or as an esoteric religious tradition that reached its culmination in Goethe’s Faust. Jung recognises all three of these interpretations as partially valid. Yet for him alchemy has to do with something more than any combination of these three traditions. The history of alchemy records how the human psyche has assumed, over centuries of trial and error, a peculiar obligation in respect to matter: the obligation to reconcile matter to the fact of christianity.

This is an extraordinary idea. It is so strange that on first encounter with it even sympathetic readers of Jung feel uneasy and prefer to avoid looking at it too closely. But for those who return to it and learn gradually to pay attention it proves itself unexpectedly effective. We find that we can read in the history of alchemy how christianity has damaged matter, and how the human psyche moves spontaneously to make good that damage.

This assessment of the place of alchemy in the history of ideas can be summarised from two points of view: firstly, by contrasting the alchemical work with the christian work of redemption; and secondly, by the hypothesis of a triangular relationship between alchemy, christianity, and modern technology.

The contrast between the alchemical work and the christian atonement pervades all Jung’s writings on alchemy. Two quotations must serve as illustrations. For those who know Jung’s work, they will be familiar. For those who do not, taken thus out of context, they will sound very strange.

Comparing the alchemical transformation of matter with the christian Mass, he writes:

By pronouncing the consecrating words that bring about the transformation, the priest redeems the bread and wine from their elemental imperfection as created things. This idea is unchristian – it is alchemical. Whereas Catholicism emphasises the effectual presence of Christ, alchemy is interested in the fate and manifest redemption of the substances, for in them the divine soul lies captive and awaits the redemption that is granted it at the moment of release. The captive soul then appears in the form of the ‘son of God’. For the alchemist, the one primarily in need of redemption is not man, but the deity who is lost and sleeping in matter….Since it is not man but matter that must be redeemed, the spirit that manifests itself in the transformation is not the Son of Man but…. the filius macrocosmi. Therefore, what comes out of the transformation is not Christ, but an ineffable material being named the ‘stone’…..(5)

The second quotation is from an essay on the sixteenth century physician and natural philosopher Paracelsus. In this, the different attitudes of alchemist and christian to the transformation of matter are related to the question of man’s place in nature at the dawn of our modern scientific era.

Whereas in Christ god himself became man, the filius philosophorum was extracted from matter by human art and, by means of the opus, made into a new light bringer. In the former case the miracle of man’s salvation is accomplished by God; in the latter, the salvation or transfiguration of the universe in brought about by the mind of man – ‘Deo concedente’, as the authors never fail to add. In the one case man confesses ‘I under God’, in the other he asserts ‘God under me’. Man takes the place of the Creator. Medieval alchemy prepared the way for the greatest intervention in the divine world order that man has ever attempted: alchemy was the dawn of the scientific age, when the daemon of the scientific spirit compelled the forces of nature to serve man to an extent that has never been known before…Here we find the true roots, the preparatory processes deep in the psyche, which unleashed the forces at work in the world today. Science and technology have indeed conquered the world, but whether the psyche has gained anything is another matter.(6)

On the one hand, we have the experience of man’s salvation as accomplished by God. On the other, the transfiguration of the universe is brought about by the mind of man. Does the contrast, indeed the conflict, between these two works of redemption have anything to say about the dilemmas of our contemporary technology?

I believe it has. I believe Jung’s studies in alchemy provide us with a crucial link in the history of ideas. It is a link between science, technology, economics on the one hand, and the christian doctrines of incarnation on the other, and it is organised round the christian failure to understand what christian faith has done to the relationship between man and matter.

The best way to present this hypothesis of a triangular relationship between alchemy, christianity and modern technology is to pose a familiar question from the history of science: why did the questioning of nature characteristic of the Greek intellect of the 4th century B.C. stop short of the experimental method which developed in the 16th and 17th centuries A.D.?

Various answers have been given to this question. One answer – or perhaps we should say one set of answers – derives from the fact of christianity: from the fact that over many centuries people believed this particular faith and practised these particular rites which we call christian. It is argued that the decisive change in man’s relation to matter between, say, Aristotle and Newton, was the conversion of Europe to the belief

(1) that the creator of all Being had become man;
(2) that when this man died, he had not remained dead, but had resurrected, and
(3) that following this resurrection, his flesh and blood could by appropriate rites, be transformed into bread and wine which mankind could eat and drink.

According to this argument, the result of this conversion was a fundamental shift in the distribution of creative power within the universe. Something got into man which had not been there before. Over many centuries of disciplined intellectual effort the christian mind trained itself in asking questions which were inconceivable to the classical Greeks. These questions had to do with the dual nature of Christ as both God and man; with the nature of his mother who was both virgin and yet also in the fullest sense mother of a man; with how three can be one and one three and what this implies for the relation between person and substance; and, perhaps most crucial of all, with the nature of the change that took place in bread and wine in the Eucharist. Gradually, imperceptibly, questioning like this separated mind and matter in a way they had not been previously separated. A space opened up between mind and matter which was altogether and absolutely new in the history of mankind. Mind was seized of the very special ‘objectivity’ which separates creator and creature.

It was this qualitatively new objectivity which made possible the scientific revolution of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. A thousand years of intricate and passionate reflection on the mysteries of christian faith and practice had separated mind from its original participation in nature. Within the space made by this separation man had room to experiment, and to sustain his experimenting in a way that had never before been possible. He learned to enjoy putting nature to the torture.

This view of the origin of modern science is of course not universally accepted. This is not the occasion to take the argument further. What I want to do is to put it forward as an hypothesis, and draw attention to one consequence which would follow if this hypothesis were to be proved.

So let us assume that the objectivity of modern natural science, the ‘space’ which separates the mind of both the experimental and the applied scientist from the matter on which they work, derives from reflection on the central doctrines of christianity. If this were true, what would it mean for those of us – and that means now almost everybody in the world – who live off the technological fruits of natural science?

It would mean that we are all, christian and non christian alike, living off a reflective act of which we are unconscious. But the reason for this unconsciousness would vary between those who think of themselves as christian and those who think of themselves as non christian.

For the overwhelmingly non christian world which has now taken possession of natural science it would mean that we are living off reflection on something which in varying way we deny, or even despise or abhor. It would mean that if the act of which we are unconscious should insist on becoming conscious we would have to admit to a contradiction running through all our intercourse with matter: a contradiction by which we allow ourselves to enjoy the fruits of a distinctively christian separation between mind and matter, while refusing any obligation to the christian work of atonement.

For christians, it would mean that we are the guardians of a secret which we dare not acknowledge. Because if christianity has fathered and mothered the scientific revolution of the last three hundred years it has conspicuously failed to retain the faith of its own offspring which has, moreover, succeeded in doing what christianity wanted to do but failed to do: converting the world. So if this secret of which we are unconscious should presently insist on becoming conscious it would mean for christians that we would have to acknowledge that our faith has secreted out of its central moments of reflection a power greater than itself.

Now, always assuming that our thesis of the christian origin of modern science is true, we have here a situation whose danger every dynamic psychologist will recognise. There is an unconscious secret which is shared by two contrasting conscious attitudes. But although it is shared, its structure and dynamism is different in relation to each of the two conscious attitudes. The danger is that when the need to repress an unconscious content is shared with another person, but the reasons for the need differ, then fear of what is unconscious converts into fear of the other person. One kind of fear then feeds on another in preventing us from even beginning to question the presence of such a secret. The failure of the other person to admit to its existence confirms me in the righteousness of my own denial, and simultaneously makes the other person the bearer of the guilt of my denial.

This kind of situation is familiar in family life. But in relation to the damage which christianity has done to matter, it is a situation with which our whole world is now having to familiarise itself.

Can the non christian heirs to christian technology accept that christianity guards the secret of their power over nature? And can the christian guardians – both living and dead – accept that there is, and always has been, a dimension to their faith which only non christians can understand?

It is here, I believe, that Jung’s psychology of alchemy will prove relevant for our future. For Jung has rediscovered a world within which we can analyse what nature endured in those long centuries of evolving christian consciousness which gave birth to the experimental sciences of the last three hundred years. In this rediscovery, he has given us the ‘content’ of that secret which is now insisting on becoming conscious, a secret for which neither christianity nor technology can find room: the secret of what it means for nature, which in itself is virgin, to be used for a purpose outside itself.

What can be said about the content of this secret?

5. The alchemical ‘opus’ has its beginning in filth and dirt, and its end in gold. The beginning and the end are one. But between beginning and end, both separating and also linking them, is the work, the work against nature. What is the secret of this work that ‘conjugates’ filth and gold? It is a secret to which both economist and ecologist would like to have the key. But the key is costly: costly of spirit. And that is not the kind of payment which our contemporary economic theory comprehends.

Alchemy studies the intercourse between man and matter at a level which we have forgotten, though it was still accessible up to about the eighteenth century, that is to say up to the technological and economic revolution whose first fruits were witnessed by Marx. This intercourse is of a kind that seemed grossly material to the christian consciousness of its day, but which nevertheless presupposed that matter is ensouled. The materialism of alchemy was never of a kind which exalts the life of the intellect over against the deadness of matter. For the alchemist, matter is alive, and the intercourse of man with matter was not that of the experimental scientist who puts nature to the torture, but of the worker who mixes his labour with the stuff which is essential to existence. This quality in the work of the alchemist is reminiscent of the language of Marx.

But for the alchemist, unlike Marx, this mixing of labour with matter involved something which he was willing to call spirit. In his analysis of what went on between himself and matter he was prepared to recognise the presence of an agent that was neither ‘I’ nor ‘it’, an agent necessary to the intercourse between I and it, which nevertheless eluded all attempts to grasp it in terms of I and it. Through the presence of this agent he came to describe a work which modern materialism rejects as grotesque, as absolutely repugnant to common sense.

At the risk of serious over simplification, we can distinguish four levels in this work. At the first, we are asked to accept that matter is not dead, but alive. Then we are asked to credit that this aliveness of matter is like the intercourse between male and female. At a yet deeper level, alchemy then confronts us with something even more awkward to our understanding: the life of matter is not only compounded of a dialectic like human sexuality, but this dialectic wants to convert an unintentional incest into the celebration of a deliberate marriage. And finally, we are asked to believe that in making this conversion from incest into marriage, matter has need of a personal, human intervention.

Has this kind of hocus-pocus anything whatsoever to do with the economic problems of our world? If it has, I think the link is to be found in the word sacrifice.

Economic theory, and particularly economic argument, recognises the need for sacrifice to be made. But there is no relation between our economic and our psychological experiences of sacrifice. What we understand by sacrifice is something much weaker, much less effective and integrated, than in many other cultures. We don’t really believe that the sacrifices we are asked to make will work on the material world. Instead, we suspect that they will in some way be used against us by some agent or power which we cannot define, but are quite able to project on to each other.

The split between our economic and psychological experience of sacrifice is the central problem to which I am addressing myself this evening. I believe it originates in our failure to remember the particular sacrifice which sustain our technological culture, a sacrifice which is made between creator and virgin. Alchemy is the necessary link between psychology and economics because it remembers this sacrifice.

It remembers it on two levels: first, as pre- and non-christian; secondly, as radically altered by the fact of christianity.

Outside christianity, alchemy reminds us that our bodies cannot take matter for granted. The alchemist realises that matter exists by virtue of a work in which our bodies share, and that our enjoyment of matter – what economists call wealth – depends on our attitude to that work. If we are afraid of that work, then our enjoyment of matter remains enclosed within an incestuous circle which collapses the essential distinction between maker and made. But if we can learn to enter into that work, to do it knowingly, then our enjoyment of matter opens into the deliberate celebration of the difference between maker and made; a celebration which we can think of as analogous to human marriage.

But the advent of christianity introduces a new twist into the relation between body and matter. The faith that the maker of all that is has deliberately chosen to be part of what is made, and that the particular part chosen was the body of man, secretes as it were into the relationship between man and the rest of nature a new potentiality: the potentiality that man could appropriate to himself the unique, the terrible, ‘objectivity’ of the maker in the face of that which is made. This potentiality christianity further encouraged by ordaining that mankind should, first, eat and drink the flesh and blood of the maker, and then use mind to reflect on what this ingestion did to the relation between person and substance.

That was the new situation in which the post christian alchemist found himself. On the underside of the long centuries during which the faithful celebrated the sacrifice of the Eucharist, a new question was arising between man and matter. If the christian were free to appropriate to himself the ‘objectivity’ of the maker in the face of that which is made, would he also take on himself the corresponding obligation to remember the ‘understanding’ between creator and virgin on which all making depends?

Jung argues that the alchemists of the late middle ages and renaissance were trying to keep this memory alive, but that the science and technology of the last three hundred years have not only suppressed it, but fed on that suppression. This suppression gives to the relationship between modern man and nature its special quality of masochism. Jung’s psychology of alchemy offers us an opportunity to analyse this masochism, to undo the suppression at its root, to begin the work of remembering so that we can build again on an understanding of which christianity and its offspring have made us forgetful.

As an example, we can think of the urgent need to relate our sexuality to our food supply. At the recent world food conference in Rome, we heard the Pope agree with the representatives of state Marxism in arguing that the need to control the level of population was being exaggerated by those who already enjoy technological wealth, as a new kind of warfare against those who do not. For those of us who are persuaded of the real dangers of the population explosion, it seems as if catholic and communist hierarchies share a common interest in hunger. There is no area of world arguemnt in which we have more need of cross fertilisation between psychology and economics if we are to be saved from the self destructive cycle of sadomasochism.

Alchemy describes the economics of sexuality and hunger in a way which the christianity and marxism we heard speak in Rome do not understand. It is an economy which depends on using our enjoyment of sex to discriminate between two kinds of hunger. On the one hand, there is hunger which can be satisfied within a biological cycle of production and consumption. On the other, there is hunger which can only be satisfied by the very special kind of ‘making’ which goes on between creator and virgin, a making which precedes the very possibility of production and consumption. The alchemical work hinges on the distinction between those two kinds of hunger.

We must incorporate this distinction into our economic theory and practice. But if the psychology of alchemy is to be trusted, this will require a change of which both christian and marxist hierarchies seem to be deeply afraid. Economics will have to bring an altogether new kind of gravity to the study of what goes on between male and female. The business which men and women have with one another must become a primary centre round which we organise our understanding of wealth and its enjoyment. Instead of being a peripheral interest, the exchanges between male and female must be allowed to find their true weight at the very centre of the economic process, and from that centre to generate the metaphors and models we need to balance the economy between man and nature.

Such a shift in the centre of economic gravity would not save us from controversy and the need for difficult and painful choices. On the contrary, it would open up new areas for argument and persuasion. But it would enable us better to define the choices that matter if we are to balance sexuality and food within our technological civilisation. So let me conclude with an example of such choice, the example with which all I have said this evening has been concerned: the choice as to who sacrifices what to whom when creator and virgin come face to face.

On the one hand, we have the christian experience of Mary’s ‘be it unto me according to thy word’, which opened the way for the maker into the body of the made. Eighteen hundred years later the new breed of experimental scientists and colonisers assumed the same acquiescence in the body of the material world which they believed themselves entitled to explore. We have lived on the fruits of that assumption. We are beginning to realise the debt that may have to be paid should that assumption be called into question.

The alchemists could not make that assumption. They remembered a different scene, a scene which is becoming familiar to us once again as the third world insists on making its presence felt. The scene is described in a text which Jung quotes in his essay on ‘The Visions of Zosimos’.

Isis the Prophetess to her son Horus: My child, you should go forth to battle against the faithless Typhon for the sake of your father’s kingdom, while I retire to Egypt’s city of the sacred art, where I sojourned for a while. According to the circumstances of the time and the necessary consequences of the movement of the spheres, it came to pass that a certain one among the angels, dwelling in the first firmament, watched me from above and wished to have intercourse with me. Quickly he determined to bring this about. I did not yield, as I wished to inquire into the preparation of the gold and silver. But when I demanded it of him, he told me he was not permitted to speak of it, on account of the supreme importance of the mysteries: but on the following day an angel, Amnael, greater than he, would come, and he could give me the solution to the problem. He also spoke of the sign of this angel – he bore it on his head and would show me a small, unpitched vessel filled with a translucent water. He would tell me the truth. On the following day, as the sun was crossing the mid point of its course, Amnael appeared, who was greater than the first angel, and, seized with the same desire, he did not hesitate, but hastened to where I was. But I was no less determined to inquire into the matter.(7)

And Jung goes on to comment that she did not yield, and the angel revealed the secret.

There is a world of difference between the responses of Mary and of Isis. If psychology and economics are to join in providing the resources our technological civilisation needs, we must make room for this world. Between these two understandings of how creator and virgin can behave toward one another we have the human space within which we can explore our choices as to who sacrifices what to whom. This is the space we need if we are to respond freely to the economic predicament of mankind as nature – ‘our’ nature, yet not ours – begins to reassert her right to be as she is in herself. And it is in this space, so I believe, that Jung’s psychology of alchemy will prove itself.


1. C.G.Jung, Memories Dreams Reflections, Vintage Books, New York, 1963 p.205

2. Ibid., p.211-213

3. Ibid., p.221

4. C.G.Jung, Collected Works, Vol. 8, para.358

5. Ibid., Vol. 12, para.420

6. Ibid., Vol. 13, para.163

7. Ibid., Vol. 13, para.99

1976 Sado-masochism and the peculiar numinosity of machines

(unpublished paper, probably prepared for Hawkwood College Jung weekend)

In this talk I want to amplify an argument which I developed in a lecture given in November 1974, under the title Jung and Marx: alchemy, christianity, and the work against nature. I want to amplify it in two directions. Firstly, by saying something about the personal material within which my argument was generated. Secondly, by elaborating the content of the argument. What I hope to do is to extend the imaginative framework within which we study both Jung’s psychology of alchemy and the works of Karl Marx.

But as introduction I feel the need to justify the use I will be making of my own dreams. Using dreams, with their peculiar privacy and idiosyncrasy of style, in support of an argument put forward for public consideration, is a dangerous method of persuasion. There is a subjective fascination to our own dreams which distorts judgment and prejudices our public with its implicit claim to private revelation. It is a rhetorical tactic which I think we are wise to avoid.

Yet there is I believe an argument to the contrary. If we pay attention to our dreams, and I have done so for nearly thirty years, it is deceitful to pretend, either to ourselves or to others, that their imagery is not continuously affecting our reflective thinking as well as our spontaneous behaviour. My interest in bringing together the work of Jung and Marx is, so far as I understand it, in part caused by the accretion over years of dream images and my waking work on them. I am myself deeply persuaded that it is important for our world that Jung’s psychology of alchemy and the works of Marx be studied in conjunction. If I am to persuade others, it seems to me that I must be prepared to expose the imagery, with all its awkward intimacies, in which my own conviction has germinated and grown. Perhaps in the exercise of such exposure we can learn new ways of working with the prejudicial privacies that lie behind all public debate.

So I hope that when I come to my dream material you will agree to suspend judgment until you have heard all that I have to say. I am using it as a means to an end, and in asking for favourable audience I ask only that you don’t judge my usage until we have arrived at the end.

Pattern in bewilderment: Jung and Marx

My interest in Jung’s psychology of alchemy has had an uncertain history. In 1947-8, when I was 22, I read the translation of the 1936 Eranos lecture on the Idea of Redemption in Alchemy which was published as Chapter Five in The Integration of the Personality. I cannot remember how I reacted, but to judge from the marginal notes which I made at the time there was considerable excitement. This extended to buying a copy of the 1944 Swiss edition of Psychologie und Alchemie, of which I read about the first half – quite an achievement at the time when my German was inadequate. But by the time the English translation appeared in 1953 my interest had diminished, and although I bought the volume, I read only the Introduction. This made a big impression on me, in the same context as the Eranos lectures on the Trinity and the Mass, but I was untouched by any of the specifically alchemical symbolism.

After that, my interest in alchemy went underground for about fourteen years, that is from the age of 27/8 to 41/2. During my training in Zurich, which fell between my 35th and 40th years, I attended and was gripped by various lectures on the subject, but I never felt myself to be directly, personally, involved with the symbolism. I read Aion but not Mysterium Coniunctionis, even when the English translation was published in 1963.

To use the contemporary idiom, alchemy did not turn me on. Memory is deceptive, and I cannot be sure, but I am inclined to believe it actually turned me off. I felt it to be part of Jung’s work which I might come to later, but for the present I could get along without it.

The change came after I graduated from the Institute in 1966 and returned to practise in England, and I associate my first conscious recognition of the change with the work of Marx. The catalyst seems to have been an experience with one of my training patients in Zurich.

The analysis had got bogged down, nothing seemed to be happening, and there was talk of stopping. Then he brought a dream, the details of which I have forgotten but it had to do with large quantities of tinned foods, stealing, and cheating the insurance company. Attempts to interpret it from the point of view of food and feeding were all felt to be sterile and contrived. Then I found myself attending to the money symbolism in the dreamer’s associations with cheating the insurance company, and heard myself say something like: “It sounds like a parody of the iniquities of capitalism as seen by a good marxist”. The response was an angry explosion, and from that moment the analysis moved into a different gear, with workable negations of an altogether new kind within the transference.

This episode intrigued me, but I did not make much of it at the time. Soon after my return to England, however, I was asked to give a talk to the Jung Club on Power and Money, and in preparing this noticed that my mind was repeatedly returning to the effect my ‘marxist interpretation’ had had on my patient. It was as if that episode held within it some latency from which my attention would not free itself. I decided to work on it, and looked out my copy of Marx’s Capital, which I had read as a student in 1947-8. Somehow I was not altogether surprised to find that the margins contained references to Jung, whose books I had also been reading for a first time at that age. I found myself, at the age of 41, wondering about the relation between Jung and Marx.

Autobiography is a tricky enterprise and I can’t be sure how closely knit events were nearly ten years ago. But to the best of my recollection this wondering about Jung and Marx involved me not only in reading, but also in research back into my dreams of the previous twenty years. In reading Marx and his commentators, I discovered that since my student days marxist studies had been transformed by the discovery of ‘the young Marx’, the works of his earlier years in which he had been differentiating his own position from that of his master Hegel.

These works I found unexpectedly exciting. Jung had said of Hegel that he could have been one of the greatest psychologists of all time, and studying how Marx had struggled to materialise and sensualise the Hegelian vision I found myself in a familiar world, the world of Jung’s essays on the Trinity and the Mass. I was back where I had been twenty years before, but with the difference that in the meantime I’d done a lot of living and a lot of dreaming.

As I researched back through the dreams of twenty years I found that my reading of Marx was providing me with a new grid, a new frame of reference, with which to organise a confused mass of inchoate and elusive imagery. I found myself recognising pattern and connection where previously there had been bewilderment and bewitchment. And gradually it dawned on me that this pattern was alchemical.

I come now to the moment when I have to risk telling you some dreams of my own.

The Dreams

I have selected six dreams, spread over a period of more than six years, to give you an idea of the kind of material which I was working over in 1967, 1968, and 1969. I shall read them out to you without comment except for the date of dreaming. I shall then try to explain how they affected my understanding of the marxism of alchemy, and the alchemy of marxism.

February 11. 1956

Scene: London centre, Sunday afternoon. Sir Brian Robertson alone checking on his trains. A mysterious unknown bridge crossing the Thames, central flow. Planning to hear special select performance of little played Beethoven music, seats at 26/- each (52/- the pair). Pre war family cook, 52 pantry, overtones.

At culmination, through papers dealing with shipment of Jewish goods across this central river bridge, I am initiated into a central secret on which the world is based – “Guard this secret with thy Breath, O human sinner”. Shown how to link my hands together backwards, curving the knuckles round each other, and making the small finger a ring through which grains of corn can be poured. This most wonderful sign is the making of all the KNOTS – the joined knuckles are the KNOTS – of Lime Street station dream. The small finger is the final knot.

Having been shown this, I and woman/girl and others are in group, in the Presence of Mephistopheles: I then wake in grandeur of terror and horror. But doze half awake, when men bring to us bills of lading for this Jewish shipment to persuade us to return it. I send others off, saying I must deal with this, and with a feeling of almost unbearable constriction, say to him, in French because in English I cannot get it out, as with stammer: “Tu es le Diable Chrétien – Gaberwocchus”, and with this act of identification of the Christian Devil seeking to take back my/our hidden knowledge of this sacred secret, in back entrance, 52, I wake in great awe.

October 28, 1956

I am reading difficult and little known work of St Augustine describing in the style of the Confessions how he came to be taught by God to create music, by learning how to make the tension between opposing things harmonious. In some sense this meant extracting opposed tension out of metals, metals being the very stuff of transformation. This is linked with the idea of analysts’s book on how to play the cello, and one of the great difficulties in publishing and selling it will be that it is only of interest to those who have cellos: it is almost as if we have to sell a cello with each copy.

December 4, 1957

A very long science fiction sort of story. While travelling with wife over Ireland and West of England we have a recurring experience when another level of experience altogether tries to break through and possess our minds. (Wife’s description of John Cowper Powys book). It is also like a terrible disease, and is close to cancer, hydrogen rather than oxygen as source of life – there is much more hydrogen – herring which swim in January from Rome to Grimsby to the dogger bank and are not fish but a rock thing associated with the KNUCKLE joint and although Man is catching more of them than ever before and they are as always being noiselessly devoured by some time-principle beneath the sea, their rate of breeding is such that there are still plenty – the South Pole, seen as a map of…

The humans in the story are divided into two, We and Them. We are normal, They have ‘had the experience’ and as a result are under the domination of this Other force. We want to get close to the experience, yet not lose ourselves in it.

As story moves to its climax I am alone in a house, left even by wife, the only intelligent We among a number of They. Thinking to make friends I caress a dumpy, frowzy quite unattractive woman of They. She is on my knee. I am talking to her. Then I say something about the South Pole and she realises that I am a suitable subject or victim for the Experience.

So she tells me frantically to empty my mind and let It come in so that I am taken over by It. She is shaking with passion, witch like invoking her terrible god. But I realise that sometime in the past I too have seen It, and because I have seen It, I am different to all these Them and do not need or want to be taken over by It. I want only to be face to face with It. So I deny her, and her face becomes distorted, is shoved close to mine in a paroxysm of rage, and I wake with the shock, and the word Hydrogen swimming all round me.

August 4, 1961

Watching some revue show that begins by being funny, ends cruelly serious.

Intelligence clothed in human bodies so that they are indistinguishable from humans come out of certain materials, shiny surfaces in machines, and take over control. To begin with they do a dance, then sort of retire or return whence they come. Then they stay longer, and there is terrifying possibility that they will reduce humans to nothing. At end one of them says in awful power: “No, I/we believe in mind”, by which is meant that for them all ‘ordinary human considerations’ are as nothing.

As he says this, someone presses a finger on a pulse in my groin, a pulse that is a nerve centre of a sex organ that is neither, or both, male nor/and female.

[In my published dreams the last sentence of this dream reads:

"As he says this, someone has finger on inside of my groin just between penis and thigh. It is as if he is pressing on a pulse, nerve centre, gland at tip? top of penis in which all sex sensation is".]

April 2, 1962

1. Fantastic initiation into gambling place of huge dimensions, all the horror of brutalised modern city youth. Hundreds of thousands of people, mainly men, but also some women, are taking part every evening. It is a sort of contemporary picture of the Orwellian proles. I am being initiated, shown how – there is some sort of radical shadow acceptance here, ?related to X’s gambling allusion of March 21. I don’t like it: but I am learning how to partake of this experience that is as it were the birthright of city youth.

2. I am having lunch with a modern Dean of Liverpool. Does he know my father is dead?

3. Penetrate down deepest pit to reason with young mother who under influence of second girl who can only understand things ‘literally’, legalistically, is destroying her two children in some hideous fire death, gloating over their burning flesh. I try to persuade her she must confess all.

This is the emotional core and hot heart of the dream.

Because she is totally unable to accept the shadow side of marriage, its destructiveness, its metaphysical collapse as a result of the dissolution of the incestuous marriage between Christ and Church which is the archetype of human marriage, therefore she must destroy her children. She has no understanding, therefore relies on this literal minded ‘idolatrous’ companion of hers to tell her how to react to this uncomprehended situation. This second girl counsels this revolting cooking of the children.

Deep down in this vastly deep hole in the earth – hundreds of feet down – I come upon them by a glass fronted stove, with the children inside heated almost to their destruction. The mother seems a bit distraught and uncertain of what she is doing. I feel the unbearable pain of the tiny bodies. Trying to persuade the mother that she ‘must confess all’ means trying to persuade her to pour out to her father confessor how totally destructive is her experience of marriage: her vision that marriage is not one of the essential foundations of society but a centre from which the Spirit of Destruction works its demonic power on men and women as individuals and as members of society.

August 4, 1962

Real terror, Power. The sap rising in a tree is a thing of power and terror.

I am with a close ‘other’ – my wife or brother or even myself who is not I – in a place that is familiar though I have never been there. We take too familiarly, too casually, the mortal danger that makes our lives so infinitely valuable.

There is a three level method of controlling the instinct power in mankind. I have in my hand a tiny living creature, kin to the cold blooded creatures of the earth. Through this creature I am in touch with the power and life of the warm blooded creatures of the earth; and through those with a third stage which is both the ‘intelligence’ of man also at the same time the chemical ‘difference’ that separates organic from inorganic chemistry.

This is what distinguishes I from the terror, the numinous terror, of the non I.

But the touch of the power in my hand as the tiny frog like Thing stirs is frightening me. I let it drop, thinking that I can always recover it. But at the same moment something happens to my companion, my ‘other’. It is his/her job to keep in touch with the life within the stars. A life from the stars has touched down onto the earth, and threatens mankind. The life I have let go out of my hand, the tiny, quick, cold, slippery key to the instinct power of all that lives on our planet, is ‘loose’ at the same moment as the star life that my ka has seen come to earth. Because we are careless, because my ‘other’ is without a proper understanding of the process in which we are involved, we do the wrong things, and the two unite.

At least we then understand the danger. We have precisely five minutes to escape before an intelligence plus life power takes over. I leave dressed as I am, only in my night clothes and the open sandals of a small boy. We get into a vehicle (?like my parents’ car when I was a small child) to escape.

But in a sense we know already there is no escape.

We take a strong drink to encourage ourselves, but this only serves to make us conscious of the fact that we are already losing our identity into the impersonal collectivity of this new life: that all our life I have been the preselected bearer of this new life, so that every thing I have ever done, every word I have ever said, every thought I have ever shaped into words, has been a ‘choosing’ to be one of the few channels through which the star life could flow into the instinct power life of our planet.

Even so does every parent have to choose to die so that a new generation can have I-ness. Perhaps our children may learn to live as ‘I’ with this joined power of star and instinct: but only if we have first knowingly given our lives for it. Thinking in words cannot save me. Because this is the terror, the power, whose movement through the void leaves words behind it as a comparatively unimportant creation: the casual sparks thrown off by a huge and original friction of power against nothing. This is my work.

Body as Maker

Now I want to limit myself strictly in what I say about these six dreams. I am ignoring completely – and some of you may think deceptively – the context in which they were dreamed, with all the associations from my life and analysis at the time. I want to look at them as I did ten, fifteen, years later when I was researching back through a mass of other dreams fired by my excitement in the reading of Marx. From that point of view I have selected them in order to give an idea of the range of imagery involved.

In two of them there is imagery of a kind which I think we can agree to call chemical: the idea of hydrogen and oxygen as alternative sources of life, and the emphasis on the difference which separates organic from inorganic chemistry. In another two there is reference to metals, once direct and once as the material out of which machines are made. In all these four I hear, and I hope you do too, resonances from the history of alchemy and chemistry.

The first which I read out, has no such explicit alchemical content. But its central image of the knotted knuckles is typical of another motif which has been influential in my dreaming, and I have included it for that reason. Because this motif, the motif of the human body as essentially implicated in the verb ‘to make’, has been the theme which, for me, has evoked harmonies between the work of Jung and Marx.

I don’t want to go into detail on the work I have done on that dream. I hope to do so on another occasion. I want merely to use the dream to illustrate a thesis.

What happened as I worked on these dreams and others like them with my marxian ‘grid’ in mind, was that I came to think about the body, my body, the human body, in a way that I had never done before. My dream material seemed to be insisting that I learn to think at a level where my body could be understood both as in nature and also as making nature. As the implications of that began to sink in, I found two areas of study opened up. One had to do with modern social anthropology, with insights drawn from the comparative study of cultures as to how variously the body is experienced. The other had to do with the history of our own culture, with the radical change of the last three hundred years in the relation between man and nature.

The marxian grid proved important because it acted as a kind of exchange or transformer between these two areas of study, provocative in its insistence that I try out translations between them, between anthropological and historical insights into the ‘openness’ of the question of body. These translations have been close to the centre of my work during the last five years, and it is to them that I now turn.

Wild Pansies and the Savage Mind

The most concentrated intellectual experience of my years at the Jung Institute in Zurich was a course of lectures on the work of Claude Lévi Strauss, given by one of his pupils. It was just after publication of La Pensée Sauvage, and to this day my copy of the French edition, with its wild or savage pansies on the cover, evokes almost tangible memories of the extraordinary excitement of those lectures. Lévi Strauss’ vision of how man is both in nature, and also makes nature, satisfied me deeply. I think the depth of this conversion, for it had all the characteristics of conversion, was in part because of the emphasis he gave to language in his teasing out of the enmeshment of man and nature. For someone who had been obliged by stammering to interest himself over decades in the ramifications and contraries of speech, this emphasis was like a homecoming.

For instance, it was Lévi Strauss as much as Jung who helped me orientate myself to the dream from August 1962. His synoptic vision of how animal, vegetable, mineral, form one cosmos in which man can recognise himself in the face of a wholly Other, enabled me to believe in a co-inherence of matter and intelligence which was both terrifying and yet understandable. His awareness of a plural world, both participatory and hierarchical in its proliferation of congruent grammars, proved the intellectual grounding for feelings of power and terror which were dangerously inflationary. He humbled and he reassured my imagination. He enabled me to recognise the hugeness of the work of translation which lies all around us, but he also persuaded me that it was possible.

Through Lévi Strauss I came to read more widely in anthropologists of various persuasions. I began to realise, or perhaps remember is the better word, how much more there is to being in the body than I had learned from psychoanalysis. I remembered how much depends on our hands, on the way in which the turn between the front and back of the hand projects into the world the ambiguous inside-outsideness of the body. The word projection began to sound with a new gravity as I learned to take tool making seriously. I began to be interested in axes of interpretation which it seemed to me were ignored by the psychoanalytic approach to the body.

But though anthropological perspectives enabled me to do justice to many dimensions of my dreaming, there was one whole area of symbolism which they did not seem to respond to. In the examples I have given you it had to do with the peculiar numinosity of machines. More generally, it seemed to draw on a sense of revolutionary innovation in the last two hundred years, a sense of an irreversible and fundamental break of an altogether new kind in the co-inherence of matter and intelligence, so that being in the body endangers us now in a way for which we have no precedent. In responding to this dimension in my dreams I have found it necessary to look to the history of our own culture, rather than to the comparative studies of contemporary anthropology.

The difference needs emphasising. I can do so with reference to what Lévi Strauss calls the ‘neolithic paradox’. He is talking about the technological revolution of neolithic times, when man’s mastery of the great arts of civilisation – pottery, weaving, agriculture and the domestication of animals – became firmly established. He makes the point that to have achieved this mastery, neolithic man must have been the heir of a long scientific tradition. Why, having made this break through, did the scientific enterprise then come to a halt, and several thousand years of stagnation intervene between the neolithic revolution and modern science, like a level plain between ascents? “The fact that modern science dates back only a few centuries raises a problem which ethnologists have not sufficiently pondered”.

Lévi Strauss’ response to this neolithic paradox is this:

“There is only one solution to the paradox, namely, that there are two distinct modes of scientific thought. These are certainly not a function of different stages of development of the human mind [he is referring to arguments about magic and science] but rather of two strategic levels at which nature is accessible to scientific enquiry: one roughly adapted to that of perception and imagination, the other at a remove from it. It is as if the necessary connections which are the object of all science, neolithic or modern, could be arrived at by two different routes, one very close to, and the other more remote from, sensible intuition”.

Now it seemed to me that many of my dreams were about that ‘remove’. It was as if the relation between body and world was being imaged on two different strategic levels. We can look at this remove in terms of Jung’s typology. But we can also look at it in terms of the history of our own culture, and it is in this direction that my dream material has pulled and pushed me.

In my 1974 paper I put forward another version of the neolithic paradox. I asked: why did the questioning of nature characteristic of the Greek intellect of the 4th century B.C. top short of the experimental method which developed in the 16th and 17th centuries A.D.? The answer I put forward turned on what I called ‘the fact of christianity’. I argued that modern science and technology, with all that they imply for the place of man inside and outside nature, are because of christianity.

I am not going to repeat that argument here. I want to amplify it in the light of work on the dreams I have told you, work which originated in the intense feeling toned complex imaged in the words: “someone presses a finger on a pulse in my groin, a pulse that is a nerve centre of a sex organ, that is neither, or both, male nor/and female”. And the central idea round which I shall be organising my amplification is that of sado-masochism.

Sado-masochism and the irrationality of traffic jams

Since it was first used in a sexual context at the end of the last century, the term sado-masochism has acquired a much wider resonance. The idea of a nexus between pain and pleasure, with one feeding on the other so that they can be thought of as not only interdependent but as actually generating one another, has proved itself one of the centres round which the twentieth century has organised its experience. Within the wider history of ideas it stands in sharp contrast to the use made of the pleasure-pain calculus by nineteenth century utilitarianism. For me, reflecting on sado-masochism has helped establish connections between areas of experience which seemed at first to have nothing to do with each other. I want here to try and demonstrate this with reference to technology, christianity, and gender.

Perhaps the most familiar example of technological sado-masochism is the traffic jam, the whole complex of choices and compulsions that results in the contradiction of massed ranks of immobilised auto-mobiles. But more generally, the question of how to enjoy technology, both its applications and its fruits, is at the heart of contemporary political and economic debate.

Is technology enjoyable? Apparently, yes: we are greedy for more. But on second thoughts, isn’t it destroying our enjoyment by its very success? Can we do anything about the contradiction?

From one point of view the problem of how to enjoy technology can be presented as a new version of the story of the sorcerer’s apprentice, or of what Jewish tradition has called the Golem. But if we rest content with that we evade evidence of the special kind of anxiety which the technology of the last 150 years has generated, anxiety of a kind well illustrated by the dreams I have read you. Is it just a new version of a dilemma that has always been with us, or is it in some way qualitatively different, something altogether new?

One reason for the continuing appeal of Marx’s analysis of human nature is the position he takes on this question. He is persuasive because he seems to do justice both to our sense of continuity, of familiarity, and to our sense of revolution, of something qualitatively new. What holds the two together is his concept of alienation.

In his view of history, in what we can call his historical anthropology, alienation has always been present. But with the first industrial revolution of 1750 to 1850 alienation took over, as it were, in a way which was new. It was in Marx’s idea of alienation that I found the link between my anthropological and my christian dream imagery. Because, and this was crucial, Marx’s alienation was about a sado-masochism common to both.

I am not going to attempt a summary of Marx’s theory of alienation, on which there is now a large and controversial literature. I want merely to introduce one of its central ideas by way of commenting on the dream I have read you of the knotted knuckles.

Marx’s anthropology is passionately interested in human labour, on what happens when we humans, tool making animals, create out of the labour of our own hands artifacts which then acquire an independent existence as objects in the outside world, over against their maker. In Marx’s work, this economic and technological process is seen as central to any understanding of our place in nature. Marx argues that we have been tricked into forgetting that we ourselves, in our collective identity as human beings, are the creator of that tool made world which is then turned against us, as an alien, hostile and repressive power. In developing this argument he draws heavily on the philosophy of Hegel, with its penetrating analysis of the relation between subjectivity and objectivity. This Hegelian analysis in its turn owes much to the centuries of christian theological and mystical reflection on the dual nature of Christ as both God and man, and on the Trinity.

The result is that in Marx’s anthropology what humankind does with its hands is analysed not only in terms of activity in the world, but also in terms of activity which makes the world. As individuals, we labour on and against a world which exists independently of us. As social beings, as collective labour, we make that same world. Our collective labour is as it were constitutive of the world in which we find ourselves as individuals. The perennial sado-masochistic trick that is played on us, or which we play on ourselves, is to pretend, or to deliberately forget, that this our labour is both individual and collective. Only by remembering both sides of our labour can we recover for ourselves the human reality which has been unconsciously projected onto an inanimate environment.

Since Marx wrote, other original thinkers have contributed similar visions of a dialectic relation between man and nature. For instance, Lévi Strauss is aware how close to Marx his own theory can seem to be, and is concerned to emphasise the difference. Certainly Marx is much easier to approach today than he was fifty years ago, thanks to the influence of comparative ethnology. His relevance is both more obvious and yet less absolute.

But for relating the new ethnological insights to our own cultural history, Marx remains a pivotal figure. Because through his link with Hegel we can recognise the essential christianism of what he is saying about human labour. His analysis of human labour and of the trickery by which the creator becomes alienated from himself is a reworking of a drama familiar to the judaeo-christian theological tradition.

Let me now try to try to draw my argument together by returning to that dream image of the knotted knuckles. What can that have to do with the christian devil?

The answer I want to suggest turns on the difference between the front and back of the hand. I believe this difference defines body as both inside and outside itself. Being both inside and outside itself the body is uniquely placed to understand the work of creation from inside that work. If that is so, it would not be surprising if the body understands rather too well for our comfort what happens when the creator becomes a part of its own creation.

Psychoanalysis is full of images of the inside and outside of the body. The difference between inside and outside is one of our most telling metaphors. Through all the historical ambiguities of the words subject and object the metaphor returns us to the age old tradition of macrocosm and microcosm. The hands, with their familiar but wonderful ability to turn inside out and outside in, translate the insideness and outsideness of the body into, or out to, the world. Because of our hands, the world is a place of insides and outsides. Because of our hands, the world is a cosmos.

Hands work. The turn which makes outside in and inside out is work. Hands remind us that a place of insides and outsides is full of work. Hands remind us that the world is constituted of work. Hands remind us that the world is made, and in doing so remind us that making knows the difference between outside and inside. Without that knowing-making there can be no cosmos.

But making can be both pleasurable and painful. Is knowing the difference between outside and inside also both pleasurable and painful? If so, then our various experiences of sado-masochism could be a way into understanding cosmogony.

Here we come to what has been one of the more important steps in amplifying my dream material. It is the step which I referred to earlier when I said that in Marx’s idea of alienation I found a sado-masochism common to both technology and christianity. It is a step which moves technology – that vast superstructure between humanity and nature built on the turn of our hands – into our experience of the holy. One of the reasons why Marx’s work remains pivotal to my imagination is that his theory of alienation is one source for some of the most interesting contemporary analyses of man’s social encounter with the holy.

The writer who enabled me to take this step was Peter Berger, a sociologist whose three books The Social Construction of Reality, The Social Reality of Religion, and The Rediscovery of the Supernatural, were published in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s.

In these books Berger is drawing on a sociological tradition which is able to use Marx’s work critically, drawing on his invaluable insights without treating him as a scriptural authority. Men Like Max Weber, Emile Durkheim, G.H.Mead, have shown how the dynamics of projection and introjection which Marx analysed in terms of alienation can be related to the religious categories of which Marx was so tragically afraid. Social and technological alienation, the destruction of the nexus between human subjectivity and human objectivity, can be analysed within the same frame of reference as man’s religious encounter with the Wholly Other, that encounter which Rudolf Otto saw as the origin of the Idea of the Holy.

In Berger’s work on The Social Reality of Religion his analysis makes use of the idea of sado-masochism. He makes it clear that his use is “emphatically not to be understood in Freudian or other psychoanalytic terms”. His use derives directly from Sartre, and through Sartre (though he does not make this explicit) from writers such as Heidegger, Husserl, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Marx and Hegel.

In chapter three, The Problem of Theodicy, he develops a view of sado-masochism as an attitude common to political, economic, familial, sexual, intercourse between I and Other. What interests him is the similar way in which within these various contexts we approach “the interpretations of last resort”, the problem of how to justify the ways of God to man (which can of course include the denial of God’s existence), and he emphasises that in this underlying and all embracing problem of theodicy the sado-masochistic attitude “is one of the persistent factors of irrationality, no matter what degree of rationality may be attained in various efforts to solve the problem theoretically”.

It is this emphasis on sado-masochism as a persistent factor of irrationality associated with all interpretations of last resort which I have found so helpful in Berger’s book, and which has enabled me to write this paper.

Berger draws various conclusions. From the point of view of my argument here, the one which interests me has to do with the peculiar quality of Christology as an interpretation of last resort. Anyone who has enjoyed reading Jung’s Answer to Job should read Berger in full. But I want to quote a fairly long passage, so as to give the flavour of his argument and also because it contains what has been for me a fundamental insight into the meaning of my dreams.

He has been discussing the Book of Job, and various later attempts to mitigate the sado-masochistic implications of such scriptural authority. He goes on:

Yet all these ‘mitigations’ of the masochistic theodicy are of less historical importance as compared with the essential Christian solution of the problem, namely, the one posited by Christology. Indeed, we would argue that, despite every conceivable variation of it in the history of Christianity, this may be called the fundamental Christian motif – the figure of the incarnate God as the answer to the problem of theodicy, specifically, to the unbearable tension of this problem brought about by the religious development of the Old Testament. And, however the metaphysics of this incarnation and its relationship to man’s redemption may have been formulated in the course of Christian theology, it is crucial that the incarnate God is also the God who suffers. Without this suffering, without the agony of the cross, the incarnation would not provide that solution of the problem of theodicy to which, we would contend, it owes its immense religious potency.

He then quotes from Albert Camus to illustrate how Christianity can arrive, through sado-masochism, at a ‘strange form of happiness’. But he continues:

There is, however, an essential condition for the ‘strange form of happiness’ that is not explicated in the above quotation. This is precisely the condition that binds the Christian theodicy to its masochistic antecedents, at least within the central orthodox traditions of Christianity (as against, for example, the Gnostic heresies). This condition is the affirmation that, after all, Christ suffered not for man’s innocence, but for his sin. It follows that the prerequisite for man’s sharing in the redemptive power of Christ’s sacrifice is the acknowledgement of sin……

…because the contemplation of Christ’s suffering deepens the conviction of man’s unworthiness, the old masochistic surrender is allowed to repeat itself in a more refined, not to say sophisticated, manner. We would contend that the fundamental religious motorics of Christianity cannot be understood if one does not understand this, and that, furthermore, the plausibility of Christianity (at least in its major orthodox forms) stands or falls with the plausibility of this theodicy.

I believe that the dreams I am discussing are about that ‘stand or fall’.

Creation, Incarnation, Technology

I want now to shift the centre of gravity of my work of amplification to include the second explicitly christian image in my dreams, that of the breakdown of the marriage between Christ and his Church.

When I first reflected on that dream fourteen years ago the ideas which came to me (apart from the personal and familial which I am deliberately and perhaps deceptively excluding from my present argument) were mainly associated with the relation between christianity and capitalism. Between the ages of about sixteen and thirty I had been deeply influenced by Max Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, and R H Tawney’s Religion and the Rise of Capitalism. In finding my own identity as the son of my father, the idea of a secret, only partly understood, connection between religion and the vast and impersonal potencies of capitalism had proved itself an effective centre round which to organise a wide field of confused and contradictory experience. It was through Weber and Tawney that I had come to read Marx while at the university, and it was through Weber and Tawney that I came, at the very beginning of my analysis, to associate money with sexuality and sexuality with money as both insisting on the intimate and binding reciprocity between the private and the public, the personal the the collective, the individual and the species, the I and the Other. Over a period of years I developed an understanding of myself in relation to my world which depended on the idea of some unacknowledged act of violence at the secret heart of christian experience, an act which had released into the world potency of a kind that was altogether new.

So in my first reflections on the dream of April 1962 I was drawing on this understanding. But as the years passed I found myself including ideas drawn from the debate on the relation between christianity and the ecological crisis of our world. This was the time when I was reading Lévi Strauss, and thinking about what he called the neolithic paradox in relation to my question: why did the classical Greek intellect stop short of the experimental scientific method of the 16th and 17th centuries AD. It seemed to me that public discussion of the ecological crisis was about the same kind of thing I’d been dreaming for fifteen years, so that it came naturally to me to relate this new awareness of an unhinged balance between man and nature to my belief in an unacknowledged act of violence at the heart of christian experience.

Gradually my reflections began to focus on sado-masochism, and on what I have called the possibility that our various experiences of sado-masochism might be a way into understanding our technological cosmogony. It seemed that the ecological crisis, with its inbuilt refutation of any simply belief in the beneficence of technology, like some vast, world wide traffic jam, demanded much more serious, and more deeply felt, reflection of what christianity had done to our understanding of cosmogony. My dreams seemed to both respond to this demand, and also to reinforce it. To include them I wanted to open the ecological argument into theology, into the recesses of christian mystery where the theology of creation and of incarnation involve each other, and in doing so I had to allow myself to feel as much as I could tolerate of a powerful, virulent, sado-masochism.

I found a focus in one of the most famous passages in Paul’s Letter to the Romans (Chapter 8, verses 18 to 25), where he speaks of the whole creation groaning in pain.

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

In thinking about some of my explicitly christian dreams I found that sentence “for the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God” responded to their ecological imagery. And the idea of all creation waiting on a redemption that somehow depended on man’s redemption reminded me of Jung’s comparison of the christian Mass with the alchemical transformation of matter.

Whereas Catholicism emphasises the effectual presence of Christ, alchemy is interested in the fate and manifest redemption of the substances, for in them the divine soul lies captive and awaits the redemption that is granted to it at the moment of release. The captive soul then appears in the form of the Son of God. For the alchemist, the one primarily in need of redemption is not man, but the deity who is lost and sleeping in matter.

Reading more widely in theological commentaries on Paul’s letter to the Romans, I came to Karl Barth’s interpretation of that eager longing, and was, perhaps rather naively, astonished to find him quote Nietzsche in amplification of the text.

Writing such as this suggested a framework within which the ecological anxieties of my dreams could be related both to the theology of creation and of incarnation. But what a man like Barth seemed to leave untouched was the powerful, virulent, sado-masochism of the imagery generated in my sleeping. For this, I found myself turning with an altogether new seriousness to Jung’s alchemical writings. Here was a whole new language speaking of the eager longing of creation, a language able to use the conjugations of pain and pleasure to enter into a technological cosmogony.

[And here my hand written text ends]

Jung and the Third Person

(Paper read to the Guild of Pastoral Psychology, 1981)

I see from the announcement of this lecture that it is billed as the last of three examining the relationship between religion and analytical psychology. My recollection of your chairman’s invitation, a year or so ago, to talk on “Jung and the Spirit” is rather more specific: that the three lectures were to be thought of as related to the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, and that I should represent as it were the third Person of that Trinity, and try to speak of Jung’s work from that position.

That at any rate was the idea which lodged itself in my mind, whether it was my own wish or yours, and has seeded my broodiness over the last few months. With what result we shall now hear.

In my understanding, the Third Person of the Trinity moves between the Father and the Son in ways which are controversial to humans. I also understand it to be prophetic, prophetic of what is to come as fulfilment of what has been done.

So I want to speak of Jung’s work from a position which allows for movement between father and son, and for prophecy.

I shall speak to two themes. The first is Jung’s distinction between extraversion and introversion. I shall try to give some idea of how this distinction moves me, in my work and in my life. I shall try to sound chords which are personal, mystical, social.

My second theme is Jung’s attitude to time. I shall propose that Jung’s psychology assumes two views of time, and that there is need for work in bringing them together. I shall speak of that work as a “remembering of the createdness of time”, and in doing so I will allow a certain, hesitant, note of prophecy to sound in my voice.

Together, I hope these two themes will leave us with a lively sense of unfinished business with the number three. For that, or something like it, would be what I would want to call this talk, if I were to have the choosing of my own title.

Extraversion, Introversion

Jung’s book on Psychological Types was one of the first of his which I read while a student at the university. I remember how excited I was with the historical chapters, how much the extravert-introvert distinction seemed able to explain in the history of thought. But it remained outside me, a concept I could pick up and put down as I wished, not a reality in which I dwelt.

During the last ten years or so, perhaps longer, it has taken me over in a new way. I think of various moments when I have become seized of the extravert-introvert distinction in ways which I cannot now renounce. I want to mention some of them, in an attempt to strengthen understanding of what is at stake between extrovert and introvert.

The first was in conjunction with the word honour, or rather its negation, dishonour. Someone was talking in desperation of an acquaintance who seemed to undermine and undo her, every time they met, in ways which seemed so slight as to be ridiculous, unworthy of attention: the choice of words, a gesture, the manner of listening. Ridiculous to make such a fuss over. “I know she means well, I know it is of my doing as well as hers, and yet” – in desperation – “it’s as if she dishonours me”.

We were both familiar with Jung’s distinction between extraversion and introversion, and over months we found ourselves using it in our attempts to explore what was at stake in this experience of being dishonoured. It helped. It served as a compass, reminding us that we were not wholly lost even at times when we could see no way ahead. Yet, for me, something was missing. The word dishonour hung in the air, witness to some sense of violation which I could not yet associate with the ugly, latinate, words extraversion and introversion.

At that time I had come to imagine the movement and alternation between extraversion and introversion in terms of the centre and circumference of a circle. It seemed to me that, within the extrovert mode of being, we feared introversion as if it could lead to the draining away of everything through a sort of plug hole at the centre of the world; while for the introvert, extraversion was feared as if it could lead to the loss of meaning through a sort of centrifugal evacuation or desolation of the world, everything being lost and scattered over the borders of the circumference. What did such an alternation between centre and circumference have to do with honour and dishonour?

The answer came in the language of mysticism. The moment in which I came to recognise how this alternation could represent something beyond itself, something which might account for the desperation and dishonour sometimes experienced in the personal encounter of extrovert and introvert, was in reading Gershom Scholem’s book on Jewish Mysticism.

I don’t know if I can even begin to convey how this happened. The particular moment was carried within the reading of the whole book, the slow and gradual becoming acquainted with a mystical tradition of which I knew nothing. It is that which I need to remember, to evoke.

For those of you who have the book, it was in the reading of pages 260 to 262, in the seventh lecture, the lecture on Isaac Luria and his school of Kabbala. Scholem is describing how Luria speaks of God’s act of creation, and is contrasting it with the old Kabbalists who saw that act as God’s projection of His creative power out of His own Self. Every new act following on that origin is a further stage in the process of externalisation, which unfolds in a straight line from above downwards, a process which is strictly one way and correspondingly simple. Luria’s teaching, on the other hand, has nothing of this “inoffensive simplicity”. He begins, and here I think I had better quote Scholem directly,

by putting a question which gives the appearance of being naturalistic, and, if you like, somewhat crude. How can there be a world if God is everywhere? If God is ‘all in all’, how can there be things which are not God? How can God create the world out of nothing if there is no nothing? … The solution became, in spite of the crude form which he gave it, of the highest importance in the history of later Kabbalistic thought. According to Luria, God was compelled to make room for the world by, as it were, abandoning a region within Himself, a kind of mystical primordial space from which He withdrew in order to return to it in the act of creation and revelation … (so) the first act of all is not an act of revelation but one of limitation … More than that, every new act of emanation and manifestation is preceded by one of concentration and retraction. Every stage in the cosmic process involves a double strain, i.e., the light which streams back into God and that which flows out from Him, and but for this perpetual tension, this ever repeated effort with which God holds Himself back, nothing in the world would exist.

Those are extracts from the pages which transfigured my understanding of why the difference between extravert and introvert can matter so much. If the talk of inside and outside, of subject and object, which we use in expressing that difference refers not only to the relation between persons and bodies in space, but also to the act which creates space itself, then that experience of dishonour, of having the ground pulled from under one’s feet, of being threatened by something almost like metaphysical annihilation, which characterises some of our close encounters between introvert and extravert, was suddenly seen in a new light. For what was at stake was no longer a difference in psychological type, but a difference in how we attend to the presence of God.

Once given, this conviction has not left me: that the psychology of extraversion and introversion is grounded in ontology, in how we attend to Being, in how we worship God. And if you say that the word ontology is not to be found in Jung’s Psychological Types, read again the historical chapters in that book. They are integral to it, and essential to an understanding of the tenth chapter in which the types are described.

But what I miss in Jung, and in the kind of mystical tradition out of which Scholem writes, is any sustained interest in exploring the social implications and expressions of extraverted-introverted encounter and antagonism. Jung draws extensively on traditions which see the human body as microcosm to the macrocosm of the universe. I am interested in a middle world between the two, in analysing the ways in which society, the social body, mediates between individual and cosmos, cosmos and individual. This, for me, is one place where the spirit moves in power.

For instance, in relation to symbols. The theme of man and his symbols is a leitmotif of Jung’s work. How do we relate his archetypal understanding of symbols to the structural analyses of symbolic form and action which the social anthropologists are giving us?

There is a whole world to be explored here, a world which reveals itself to discovery from many directions. The metaphor of inside and outside features prominently in the language of various schools. I would like to see Jung’s distinction between extraversion and introversion open into wider engagement between individual and social experience of the symbolic life.

A book which has influenced me deeply over the last ten years, and inspired me to reflect in new ways on man and his symbols, has been Mary Douglas’s Natural Symbols. Her chapter on the Two Bodies, the personal and the social, is full of new, interior, perspectives on why the difference between inside and outside can matter so very much. It moves my spirit to hazard new translations between psychoanalytic and anthropological understanding of incarnation, of what it is like to be in a body.

The last sentences of the chapter have become for me a sort of text to be chanted, almost as a kind of creed, and though it is unfair both on you and Mary Douglas to quote them out of context, I shall do so.

The physical body can have universal meaning – and that is what is claimed in the microcosm-macrocosm teachings to which Jung refers us so often – only as a system which responds to the social system, expressing it as a system. What it symbolises naturally is the relation of parts of an organism to the whole. Natural symbols can express the relation of an individual to his society at that general systemic level. The two bodies are the self and society: sometimes they are so near as to be almost merged; sometimes they are far apart. The tension between them allows the elaboration of meanings.

I have known someone to be held together in a field of seemingly intolerable conflict by the comfort of that last sentence: “the tension between them allows the elaboration of meanings”. Between self and society the fields of symbolisation are richer and more varied than we can imagine, because what is at stake is not just representation, but creation, the creation of cosmos.

But the symbols which move us between microcosm and macrocosm are always, and essentially, social. There will always be more at stake in the encounter between extravert and introvert than we are prepared for, because what is being hazarded in that encounter is creation, creation that is personal, mystical, social.

Jung and Time

Let me move now to my second theme.

In Jung’s work two different philosophies of time exist side by side. He does not seem to have been uncomfortable with their co-existence. But I think it is left to others to find how they do co-exist in his work. One of the main arguments I want to advance this evening is that the difference between these two views of time is one of Jung’s most valuable legacies to us. But if we are to inherit it, we must first recognize it for what it is: a legacy of unfinished business.

On the one hand, Jung seems to have subscribed to what we can call a Darwinian belief in evolutionary time. Such time is absolutely disproportionate to the lifetime of a human being. Compared to a person’s lifetime, it is without beginning and without end, a wholly impersonal continuum in which the present is all but lost between the vastness of before and after. On the other hand, we have all those insights which he gathered together round the concept of synchronicity. I believe that one of the more urgent tasks facing students of Jung is to recognise how radically different these two philosophies of time are, to admit it among ourselves, to proclaim it, and to research into it. If we can do that, then the spirit of Jung’s psychology, and the spirit of our times, will co-operate in new ways.

I am not going to develop this argument through a study of Jung’s work this evening. That needs doing, but this is not the occasion. Instead, I feel that I am allowed by your gift of title to speak with a certain, hesitant, note of prophecy. I want to speak therefore of the createdness of time. I believe the spirit is calling us today, now, to remember the createdness of time. The call is heard in many places. One is from within Jung’s work, in the dissonance between his varying assumptions as to the nature of time. But it is also heard in many other places. What I want to do now is to sound that call in a way which will move us between our interest in Jung’s work and some of those other places where the createdness of time is demanding and receiving attention.

How do we imagine that time is created? I shall take as my way into this question a myth which Jung might well have included in his amplification of pre-christian Trinitarian motifs in his essay on the Trinity: the Greek myth of Cronus and Zeus.

I expect this story is familiar to some of you, not to others. I want to present it within the context of social anthropology, by referring to a short, remarkable essay by Edmund Leach on The Symbolic Representation of Time.

In this essay, called “Cronus and Chronos” Leach considers “one of the most puzzling characters in classical Greek mythology, that of Cronus, father of Zeus”. He asks: why was Cronus taken as a symbolical representative of Chronos, Eternal Time? Etymologically, there is no close connection between the two words. Yet, from the very early days of Greek philosophical reflection on the nature of Time, the play between the two words was taken to both express and conceal a major issue of theology. Why?

Leach’s answer is both simple and very odd. When I first came across it, I found it strangely familiar, as if I’d known it all along. Yet it was also surprising, almost shocking. It is that human interest in sexuality and death, and in how they may be related, creates time.

His argument is so concise, so dense, that it ought to be read in its entirety. I will not try to condense it. All I can hope to do is give you a taste of what Leach believes to be at stake in the story which tells of the procession from Father Cronus to Son Zeus.

Here is his summary of the myth.

Cronus, King of the Titans, was the son of Uranus (sky) and Ge (earth). As the children of Uranus were born, Uranus pushed them back again into the body of Ge. Ge, to escape the prolonged pregnancy, armed Cronus with a sickle with which he castrated his father. The blood from the bleeding phallus fell into the sea and from the foam was born Aphrodite (universal fecundity).

Cronus begat children by his sister Rhea. As they were born he swallowed them. When the youngest, Zeus, was born, Rhea deceived Cronus by giving him a (phallic) stone wrapped in a cloth instead of the new born infant. Cronus swallowed the stone instead of the child. Zeus thus grew up. When Zeus was adult, Cronus vomited up his swallowed children: namely Hades, Poseidon, Hestia, Demeter, and also the stone phallus, which last became a cult object at Delphi. Zeus now rebelled against King Cronus and overthrew him; according to one version he castrated him. Placed in restraint, Cronus became nevertheless the beneficent ruler of the Elysian fields, home of the blessed dead.

It is a gruesome story. What can these bloody images of childbirth and castration have to say about how time is created? What does this confusion, this polymorphous confusion, of mouth and vagina, womb and stomach, strangely disturbing our sense of what passes between the inside and outside of bodies, have to say about the beginning and ending of time?

Leach’s answer draws on an enviably wide field of anthropological research. He is interested in the structure of the myth, and in particular in the image of oscillation: the out-in, out-in, out-in oscillation as the children of Uranus are born and shoved back in again, the similar out-in, out-in, as the children of Cronus are born and then swallowed, and the reversal to in-out as the swallowed children of Cronus are vomited up again. Leach bids us attend to this oscillation, and to the function of the intervening third which breaks the beat (the castrating sickle, the swallowed stone), for an understanding of how/why the myth tells of the creation of Time.

He reminds us of societies existing today in which time is not experienced as a going on and on in the same direction, or round and round the same wheel, but as “something discontinuous, a repetition of repeated reversal, a sequence of oscillations between polar opposites: night and day, winter and summer, drought and flood, age and youth, life and death”.

That is the first point to grasp. Instead of thinking of time as flow, whether in a line or circle or spiral, imagine it as oscillation, rhythm, beat. Let me repeat the crucial phrase: “something discontinuous, a repetition of repeated reversal”. Musicians usually know what is being said here. Think of it musically, especially if you can imagine having the composing, conducting, rehearsing and performing of your own set piece!

Leach then goes on to show how

the notion that the time process is an oscillation between opposites -between day and night or between life and death – implies the existence of a third entity: the ‘thing’ that oscillates, the ‘I’ that is at the one moment in the daylight and at another in the dark, the ‘soul’ that is at one moment in the living body and at another in the tomb.

It is at this stage in the argument that the relation between sexuality and death emerges as crucial for how we understand the createdness of time. Something is being said which, when I am in the right mood, I find extraordinarily exciting in relation to what we used to think of as the Freud/Jung split in the history of psychoanalysis, and also in relation to the wider encounter between psychoanalytic and biological understanding of sexuality and death. It is this: that what makes time both go on and also repeat reversal is human owning of an analogy between sexuality and death.

When the Greeks conceived the oscillations of time by analogy with the oscillations of the soul, they were using a concrete metaphor. Basically it is the metaphor of sexual coitus, of the ebb and flow of the sexual essence between sky and earth (with the rain as semen), between this world and the underworld (with marrow-fat and vegetable seeds as semen), between man and woman. In short, it is the sexual act itself which provides the primary image of time.

But this is necessarily related to dying:

In the act of copulation the male imparts a bit of his life soul to the female; in giving birth she yields it forth again. Coitus is here seen as a kind of dying for the male; giving birth as a kind of dying for the female.

The third which has to be if there is to be oscillation between opposites: when humanity owns this third, then time both goes on and repeats reversal. And by “own” I mean an activity which both claims and confesses.

Now if we are to take Leach’s point, we must realise that what he is saying is incomprehensible from within a view of time as given in nature. What is at stake in any attempt to remember that time is created is a break with nature. An assumption is being made which is not, and can never be, reasonable, if by reasonable we mean natural. But it is reasonable if we are willing to invoke an authority which is over nature. And this is what we do when we take it on ourselves both to claim and to confess an analogy between sexuality and death in order that time may go on and repeat reversal.

I will try to illustrate what I mean by taking two themes out of my own practice, themes which will, I believe, be familiar to most of us. The first is our interest in family trees, in genealogy, in what passes, or happens, between the generations. The second is our nightmares of doomsday. Can these help us imagine what it is like both to claim and to confess an analogy between sexuality and death in order that time may go on and repeat reversal?

Look please at these figures on the blackboard.

son – 1

parents – 2

grandparents- 4

1900 – 8

1800 – 64

1700 – 512

1600 – 4,096

1500 – 32,768

1400 – 262,144

1300 – 2,097,152

1200 – 16,777,216

1100 – 134,217,728

1000 – 1,073,741,824

If I have worked them out accurately, these figures represent the biological ancestry of my sons, giving the approximate numbers at the turn of each century between now and the Norman Conquest, and assuming three generations to the century.

I first saw figures like these some years ago when Alistair Hardy was talking about what (I think) he called the gene pool, the pool of genetic inheritance which we all share and on which we all draw. Since then, I have found myself returning to them again and again, in a sort of wondering meditation. What is it that they are saying to me?

This figure here, of over 1000 million, certainly doesn’t refer to actual men and women. The entire population of the world was probably about a quarter of that figure. Many hundreds of thousands of them were the same people (a reminder of the complex structure of cross-cousin marriage by which our seemingly exogamous choices of husband and wife are carried). So we have to ask ourselves, as my younger son reminded me when he loaned me his calculator to work out the figures: how many ancestors did I really have at the Norman Conquest, Dad?

Because what these figures are saying is that there is a difference between the sort of time assumed in the search for biological ancestry, and the time of history. The time of family tree, and the time of history, are not real in the same sense. They cannot be measured by the same scale.

So where does the break between the two ways of measuring occur? Back here, in the 18th century, where most of us find that our lines of ancestry cease to be traceable? Or earlier, in the middle ages, at the time of the Black Death or Magna Carta, say, when the ancestral numbers are becoming, frankly, unimaginable?

I don’t think so. I think the break between the two ways of measuring time occurs right here, at the beginning (or is it the end?) between the last (or is it the first?) child and the last (or are they the first?) parents. The time of biology and the time of history intersect, and separate, in family, between the generations and between the sexes, when an exchange, an oscillation, between two requires the presence of a third.

Whether you accept that or not, I do earnestly recommend these figures for reflective meditation. You will find that they move the imagination in unexpected ways. What Freud has taught us to call the Oedipus complex begins to sound rather different when we allow that the time of biology and the time of history may not be the same. To me, the Oedipus complex begins to sound like a reminder that time is not given in nature, but assumes an authority over nature.

Or consider Jung’s idea of the collective unconscious, and the entirely unresolved problem of how to relate it on the one hand to evolutionary genetics, and on the other to social environment. Does it help us if we question not only Jung’s assumptions about time, but also those of evolutionary theory? Listen to this passage about the ‘inventiveness’ of sexuality and death, from François Jacob’s book The Logic of Living Systems.

The notion that evolution results exclusively from a succession of micro-events, from mutations, each occurring at random, is denied both by time and arithmetic. For the wheel of chance to come up step by step, sub unit after sub unit with each of the several ten thousand protein chains needed to compose the body of the mammal would require far more time than the span generally attributed to the solar system …. Evolution has become possible only because genetic systems have themselves evolved. As organisms become more complicated, their reproduction also becomes more complicated. A whole series of mechanisms appears … (and he goes on to list them, concluding) … but the most important inventions are sex and death … death not from without, as the result of some accident, but death imposed from within, as a necessity prescribed from the egg onward by the genetic programme itself.

Invention? Sexuality and death as inventions? What is this power to invent which moves between chance and necessity in this neo-Darwinian vision of how time and life are related? What kind of resourcefulness is being assumed by the theorists of evolution? Could it be in any way connected with the imaginal resourcefulness assumed in our dreaming, that resourcefulness which appears to be both original, for the first time, and also very old? If it were, then I think the call to remember time created may be sounding more insistently than we have yet realised.

But this call does not come only from our interest in the past, in beginnings, in family trees, genealogy, and evolution. It comes also, as it always has, from our interest in the future, in endings, in the last things. Today this means for many the fear of nuclear apocalypse, a fascination with prophecies of technological doomsday. Many are deeply troubled by such visions, and there are times when I have counted myself among them.

Yet I have come to believe that much of this anxiety is not so much about the future, as about the nature of time itself. I am constantly reminded in my work of the psychoanalytic warning that in the fear there may be hidden the unacknowledged wish, and I ask myself: what conceivable wish could be hidden in our fears of nuclear holocaust? The only answer that makes any sense to me is that we could be getting desperate in our wish to remember, for ourselves, how time is created.

So let me conclude with three different responses to the fear of Doomsday, each of which is, I believe, evidence of a call to remember the createdness of time. I will leave them to speak for themselves, asking only that you allow them their hesitant, faltering note of prophecy.

The first is a dream which I had in 1957, when the great powers were still testing their nuclear weapons by explosion in the earth’s atmosphere.

I and others are waiting in London for a possible end of the world air raid, just before dawn. We are very afraid – it is fear not so much of death as of change of state. The terror that somewhere They, the Lords who control our fate, may already have dispatched the weapon that will alter us completely, making us something else.

I ask others how it will feel to live with our senses in Einstein’s space-time. How shall we ever be able to understand the normal, necessary, space-time of our prewar world? I am told that chosen people are being trained for this.

Then I find myself at the heart of our country’s defence, like the War Cabinet in the first world war, with the Welshman Lloyd George as Prime Minister. A feeling of being at the centre of whatever plans are being made to restore continuity after the possible devastation. It is announced in awed secrecy that of 800 volunteers who have been given the ‘disease’ (like radiation) with which we are all threatened, only 730 odd ‘took’.

This means that some of us will not change state. There is statistical certainty of biological continuity for mankind, although the individual remains almost wholly at risk. It is said (in the dream) that this is an evolutionary development of a kind comparable with forgotten mutations in the limbo of archaeological and geological time.

The second is from a book called The Conquest of Nature. It was written some twenty years ago, in the early years of the world wide political debate about technology and its consequences. The author takes as his theme words of the then Secretary General of the United Nations, U Thant, that “it is no longer resources that limit decisions. It is the decision that makes the resources. This is the fundamental revolutionary change – perhaps the most revolutionary mankind has ever known” and argues over a wide field against the prophets of Doomsday. But it is the surprising last four words of the book which I want to quote, with their quiet suggestion that what is feared as still to come has already been done, if only we can remember. To put these four words in their context, here are the closing paragraphs of the book.

The Indians on the West Coast of South America tell a folk tale which must be very old, since the scene it describes is depicted on a pre-Chimu pottery vase some 1400 years old. The story runs as follows: This has happened and it will happen again. Long, long ago the sun disappeared and the world was shrouded in complete darkness for five long days. This was the signal for the things to mobilise. The stones began to grind, the mortars and pestles marched against their masters, and even the llamas attacked their keepers in the stables.

In our time there is a tendency to catch sight of that same frightening vision – to blame our tools for showing malice because our world has gone wrong in so many ways. It is tempting to sit in the midst of the strange and wonderful array tour modern technology and cry out with the sorcerer’s apprentice: ‘How can I get rid of the spirits I have called up myself?’ The question is whether we, who have dominion over the earth, shall act like Sisyphus and trust to our cunning only, becoming more and more self-reliant and self-involved, self-imprisoned and self-centred. Sisyphus became his own God and his own Satan, at war with heaven, embittered with earth, and contemptuous of hell. But this author, after contemplating three-quarters of a century of technology’s marvels and horrors, has no doubt that Sisyphus has already been saved from himself. This happened at Easter.

My third example is from a recent Quaker meeting in the United States. I have it only at second hand, and it may be that the event has been altered in the telling.

The meeting was being held in the shadow of a particular expression of fear and anger and resolution in the face of nuclear technology. There had been a long silence, over an hour by the clock, when an old woman spoke. She said that she was over 80 years old, and that for the last 50 years she had been active in the peace movement. Looking around her, she saw the world now as a worse place than when she had begun, and that she sometimes asked herself if it had all been worth while. And then she remembered a poem, by the Irish poet James Stephens, or rather, she didn’t remember it very well, so perhaps she had got it wrong, but it told of God standing at the edge of the Universe, the wind of space moving his beard as he contemplates our particular little world. He says: This has always been a troublesome star. I shall destroy it. And a voice speaks from the world: Father, I am still here. God replies: My son, I thought you were dead.


I have tried to speak of Jung’s work in a way which allows for movement between father and son, and for prophecy: prophecy of what is to come as fulfilment of what has already been done. And I have said that I hope to leave us with a lively sense of unfinished business with the number three.

I expect many of you have noticed that I have said nothing of the missing fourth, or of the missing feminine, ideas which are central to Jung’s essay on the Trinity. The omission has been deliberate. I have tried to speak across Jung’s argument about the quaternity, in order to sound a note of urgency about time, and about the need to bring together social and mystical experience of the body.

Because what matters is that there be movement between Creation and Incarnation, Incarnation and Creation. To be with that movement, we need first to shiver those naturalistic assumptions which make it appear to the uncircumcised as if the Trinity were a masculine preserve. I have tried to speak of such a ‘shivering’, an excluding which is also an including, confessing which is also a claiming.

I hope that I leave you with a lively sense of unfinished business with the number three. If I do, then I am satisfied that I have spoken, in part, to the title you offered me.

Riddley Walker and Greenham Common: Further Thoughts on Alchemy, Christianity and the Work Against Nature

(Based on a lecture given to the Analytical Psychology Club, London, on 19 May, 1983)


In the 1975 edition of Harvest I published a paper on ‘Jung and Marx: Alchemy, Christianity and the Work Against Nature’. Eight years later I want to return to this theme, writing in the presence of the nuclear threat as we experience it today.

Nuclear war, the annihilation of species, genetic mutation, the end of human civilisation as we know it: the threat has been with us since 1945, and, for those with imagination, from long before that. At the time when the first atom bombs were dropped I was serving in a small aircraft carrier, very vulnerable to suicide bombing planes, a few hundred miles off Japan. I have to remember the relief, the huge relief, with which 1 heard the news of Hiroshima. A war which I had feared was going on for at least another eighteen months was over. I would be home for Christmas.

In the 1950’s, I used to dream often of nuclear war. Now I don’t. Some of my patients do. More do not. Neighbours are more actively concerned with the threat than I am. Supporting multilateral disarmament, I am opposed to unilateralism. I don’t believe there is going to be a nuclear war.

But I realise there easily could be one. This paper is written to help prove that belief against the ease of that ‘could be’.

First, a note of warning and of guidance as to the feeling tone of my argument. In my 1975 essay, I wrote:

I want to emphasise the provenance of the ideas I shall be expressing. They derive primarily from a series of my own dreams. The earliest in the series which I remember dates from 1948, when I was twenty-two. The most recent was six years ago. The reading and thinking that lie behind these ideas originates in the need to understand dreams. What this says about the relevance of my argument for you, depends on what you make of your own dreaming. But I am sure that what I am saying this evening will mislead unless its provenance in dreams is borne in mind.

In this paper I am not going to tell those dreams. But I am telling two stories, which have developed out of dreams. In telling them, I put myself into that dangerous Jungian world which writers like Anthony Storr (1973) and Peter Homans (1979) have taught us to think of in terms of psychosis, narcissism and delusional transference.

Jung’s psychology puts us at risk between the holy and the mad. It is its strength and its weakness. If it is to speak to our fearful fascination with nuclear holocaust we must be willing to accept that risk. The grandiosity which can mushroom between intimations of holiness and madness can be pretty awful. But it may be a necessary stage in finding how to talk about the unimaginable. If what Churchill called jaw-jaw is to prevent war-war, we will need to create a new vernacular, a vernacular in which we can admit and claim connections between our more private craziness and the public interfaces of politics and science. In learning to talk this vernacular, there will certainly be times when we’ll sound clumsy and tasteless. We will have to help each other get through that to an easier way of speaking about experiences which are essentially unlikely.

Which is why I have chosen to pair Riddley Walker with Greenham Common in my title. I want to move between two voices. On the one hand there is a voice which speaks of the future. It says: there is an act of violence which must not be allowed to happen. We will not let it happen. That is the voice I hear coming from the women camped outside the cruise missile base at Greenham Common. On the other hand there is a voice which speaks of a future which is already past. It says: there is an act of violence which has already been. Trying to remember it is what keeps us going. That is the voice I hear coming from Russell Hoban’s book Riddley Walker (1982).

What I have to say will sound, if it sounds at all, between these two voices.

Riddley Walker and the Sharing of Alchemical Story

Riddley Walker is a story about the future. It is also about an attempt to remember. It is this movement between prophecy and remembering which has caught my imagination.

The time of the story is set more than two thousand years to our future. The place is Kent, in the country round Canterbury. More than two thousand years ago, that is, about 2000 A.D., the world had been devastated by nuclear war. Some sort of rudimentary human and social life has got itself together again, and the story is told through the person of a boy becoming a man. Biological mutants share the action and scene with people who appear to be biologically as we are.

The story is informed by the attempt to remember the act of violence which made the world in which Riddley and his fellows find themselves. One of these they call the Eusa story. Its telling is a blend of history, myth and ritual. Russell Hoban has derived it from the christian legend of St. Eustace. But in Riddley’s world it has become a very different story, for it is trying to make sense of confused and broken memories of computers, atomic energy, and radioactive poisoning.

I was introduced to the book by two patients, one a man in his late fifties, the other a woman of thirty. They both feel strongly the threat of nuclear apocalypse. As I have said, this is a threat which I felt acutely in the middle 1950’s, but though I am still aware of it, it has changed.

One reason for this change is that I have come to believe that we are projecting onto the future our fear of something which has already happened. If we can remember a past happening which corresponds to our fear of nuclear holocaust, we shall be able to reflect in ways which at present we cannot. We shall be able to take into our lives, to own and use, something which at present we can only project onto the future, as still to come. Reflecting, we can perhaps separate fear from wish. If we can do that, then it may be possible to make a different kind of future for the world than that which Riddley and his fellows are trying to remember.

What is this happening which is both past and future?

I believe it cannot be understood apart from christianity. It is how christianity separates humanity from matter. There is an act, a deed of violence implicit in that separation which we, christians and non-christians, but for critically different reasons, are finding it difficult to own. Riddley Walker moves me in the way it does, and gives me hope, because it seems to be working towards such an owning.

It moves me especially on two levels. The first is in its language. Hoban describes it as a broken-up and worn-down vernacular. It plays the reading eye and the listening ear against each other in such a way as to remind us constantly how surprising words are. Being surprised at words is the beginning of realising what the gulf between humanity and nature is like. Riddley Walker is full of this surprise.

The second is in its remembering of machines. This remembering of what machines were like is from within a sort of neolithic sense of participation with the raw materials of which machines are made. I say neolithic because there is a quality in Hoban’s imagination which reminds me of William Golding’s stone age hominids in The Inheritors (1950). Minds which have reverted to a prescientific bondedness with nature are trying to remember what computers and nuclear power stations were like. It is as if we are being taken in the flesh inside stone and wood and asked to imagine from their experience what happened to metal to make machines possible.

Machines have figured prominently in my dreams over thirty years and more. Trying to understand what they mean to me has contributed to my belief that the violence we are afraid of in the future when we think of nuclear apocalypse has already happened. Reading Riddley Walker makes me want to share this understanding in the hope that it might contribute to a wider remembering of forgotten experience. So I want to tell a story from my analysis, the story in which my own experience of violence moves between narcissistic isolation and participation in history.

The story is in two parts. The first began in 1948, early in my analysis with Irene de Castillejo. I had had a dream, a dream of early adolescence, with sister and mothers and father present, a flight from guilt in which speech was strangled violently, and which ended with my father saying to me: “Words with o in the middle of them matter to you very much – now, move”.

Irene asked me to say some words with o in the middle and as I said them, she wrote them down. At first, none came. Then, love. Another long wait, with no words coming to mind. Then, more easily, many more, of which I can now remember pool, dove, rock, blood, as well as the word from the dream, move. Irene gave me the sheet of paper on which she had written the words, and told me to go away and write a story, using them in that order, with some sense of the time which had elapsed between my saying them.

So I wrote what I have ever since thought of as the Clermont story.

Clermont is a town in central France, where I had spent a week in the previous summer. The love affair which took me there had subsequently ended, and the ending precipitated my going into analysis. I was also reading history at the university at the time, and my imagination was caught by the fact that the first crusade had been preached by Pope Urban II at the Council of Clermont in 1095. My story originated in this coincidence of place.

The scene was set in a mood of expectancy. Western Europe is resting after the years of attack and threat from the men of the north, resting and gathering its strength. Its feeling, in the union of mind and heart, is christian. The building of churches and cathedrals bears witness to a faith which had come, and conquered, from another quarter.

Outside Clermont lived a farming family, with the three sons that go with fairy stories. Their christian faith is simple, immediate, unquestioned. The gathering of the great Council of the Church is an event of excitement. With their neighbours, the whole family went to the field outside the eastern gate where the Pope was to speak.

Into the silence of an expectancy which by that time has become almost unbearable – the seconds long wait for my first word with o – fall the words which tell of the Holy Places in the hands of non-believers, the sufferings of the christians in the east, and the call to crusade, to bear witness in arms to your love of Christ.

Your love of Christ: that word love all round the three sons as they walked home. Suddenly, the world is filled with new meaning, a meaning that calls them from the fields and animals to fight. They are carried on the word. It envelops them.

But only the two eldest can go. The third must stay at home to work the farm, to care for the parents. The pain of that staying: its bitterness – there was much of that in my story.

Now the time is later, high summer a year or two after. The boy is working in the fields. The heat is intense. He thirsts, and thirsting goes down the sloping field to a corner where there is a pool. He stoops to drink, and sees coming to meet his mouth the face and mouth of a girl. He is as if transfixed. Love turns round inside him. Christ is forgotten. All that he had learned to feel for Christ is turned to the girl. Love is here: no need to journey to the east, to war, to prove his love. The proving is here, in his thirst and what he is to do with it in the presence of that face which will be broken and vanish if his own lips once touch and break the surface of the water to quench its raging.

The story stayed for a long time with that arrest of all movement as the boy kneels by the pool, refusing in his love to quench a thirst born of his work in the fields. Tension builds in the surrounding fields and mountains. The noonday silence continues, unnaturally, into a more terrible silence of afternoon, of evening on which the sun does not seem to set. The stillness is absolute, awful, as if nothing will ever move again.

It is broken suddenly. So suddenly that it all seems to be done in a moment, so quick it might never have happened. The beating of wings, a dove settles out of nowhere on the boy’s shoulder as he kneels. He sees it reflected in the pool, reaches up to seize it, tear it, to try to slake his thirst in its blood. As the bird is torn, and the blood runs in the boy’s mouth, the landscape is wholly changed. The green is gone out of it. There are stones, rocks, stunted vegetation, a near desert land. But the girl is there, on the face of the earth, still in some way beyond the boy’s reach (is it she or he who is bound to a rock?), yet real, free to move with a volition of her own, no longer caught in reflection.

Such was the story I wrote for Irene back in 1948. From what I have learned since about interpretation and transference, it is really very sobering to think how many were the ways in which she could have responded to it. What she did do was to lend me a typescript of an early English translation of Jung’s Eranos lecture on the Trinity. Which was quite an interpretation.

I’ve had this story, with its mixture of narcissus and gnostic imagery, around in my life for over thirty years. It has informed much of my analysis of oedipal and narcissistic material, and helped me to recognise something of the drama of my family of origin. But when I wrote it I was reading history at Oxford, and the historical context and associations have always contributed substantially to the affect which the story has for me. (My early reflections on the Clermont story were profoundly influenced by The Intellectual Adventure of Ancient Man by Henri Frankfort and others (1946)). It tells something about me and my family. But it is also about something which happened in history, so I obstinately believe. If I didn’t, I would not be making it public. It has gone on helping me locate my own life story within a sense of the history of the world in which both I and my parents found ourselves and into which I have helped bring my children.

It has done so in moving me both forward and backward in history from the date at which it is set.

About its forward cast I tried to write in my 1975 paper. I wrote then of the scientific revolution of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and of how the human mind became seized of the very special ‘objectivity’ which separates creator and creature. I wrote:

A thousand years of intricate and passionate reflection on the mysteries of christian faith and practice had separated mind from its original participation in nature. Within the space made by this separation man had room to experiment, and to sustain his experimenting, in a way that had never before been possible. He learned to enjoy putting nature to the torture.

When I wrote that I had the story of that boy seizing and tearing the dove, and drinking its blood, in mind. The whole movement of dream and thought and reading which has led me to bring together Marx’s vision of human history with Jung’s work on alchemy has its origin in the affect of this Clermont story. For the human mind to become seized of the kind of objectivity necessary to sustain modern science a metaphysical act of violence was necessary. I believe that mankind is now trying to remember that act, in many different ways, from many different directions. I see that Clermont story of mine as just one such attempt.

But the Clermont story has moved me back in history as well as forward. It posed me with the question: if this is about something which happened in history, as well as at some time in my life, when did it happen? The answer has come gradually, unevenly, along various lines of reflection. Here are two of them.

The affect to which I returned again and again in the early 1950’s was held between four corners as it were. There was what the story called love of Christ. Then there was the spell-bound love for the girl at the pool. Then the coming of the dove. And lastly the violence which tore at the dove, so as to get at the blood. For someone with a strong sense of history, it was probably inevitable that this affect should spread to colour and infuse my understanding of the christian story. This spread was of course furthered by much that I found in Jung, particularly in the essays on the Trinity and the Mass, and in the introduction to Psychology and Alchemy. In responding to this, and also to the open invitation to various kinds of inflation in the story, it became important to place this question of ‘when’ in relation to the gospel as it is written. If that scene by the pool at Clermont was in any sense about something which happened in history, was it foreseen, or in any way known of, within the gospel?

The second line of reflection was about machines. Machines, particularly in the engine rooms of ships, have been important to me. I owe much to the fact that my father’s uncle was a successful marine engineer. During my childhood, I was often in ships’ engine rooms with my father. The power, the noise, the smell, the gleam of oil on metal, were part of my father’s world. In some way, they were subordinate to him. In another way, he was dependent on them. I was fascinated and afraid of the men who worked them. What were they thinking when they looked at me like that? I remember the grown ups commenting on all the ships laid up in the Liverpool docks in the early thirties, all those idle, motionless, inanimate engines. And later, when war brought them back to life, I lived close to them, and to the men who worked them, for two years.

My father was married to his ships in a way that he was never married to my mother. In my dreams, it has never been easy to separate the business he had inside my mother’s body from the engine rooms of his ships. The inside of the whale has been for me the engine room of a ship, and I dreamed once of a bird, not unlike a dove, as the soul of a large turbine.

Machines which stand idle, inert, dead. Machines which move, do work, give work, take work away. The inhumanity of machines which enslave; the humanity of machines which liberate. Our machines are certainly saying something to us. They bear witness to mind seized of a special kind of objectivity. But, being mute, that witness remains silent unless we, their makers, can find words to answer for how they have come into being.

Many dreams have called me to reflect on this mute witness of machines. Through such reflection, gradually, I found myself telling another story, a story which over twenty years and more has established a place for itself in my imagination over against the Clermont story, acting as it were as a sort of complementary pole to that scene by the pool.

It started with landscape. Jacquetta Hawkes (1951) and Kenneth Clark (1949) had taught me how landscape is made by history. Adrian Stokes (1951) had shown me landscape redolent of the mother’s body. The landscape at the ending of the Clermont story took on a life of its own. It worked on my reading of the gospel stories. It affected my imagining of the places in which Christ lived and died, in particular the contrast between wilderness and garden, the wilderness in which Christ was for forty days, and the garden of Gethsemane. The memory of that scene, in which the girl found herself on the face of the earth, worked in my imagination to create as it were a new episode within the gospel story, set in a place and time between wilderness and garden.

Christ is walking alone in a land which is between desert and cultivation. It is farm land, working land, in danger of wilderness but responsive to man’s labour, land in which people can settle and make a living so long as they do not take it for granted. As he looks round him, he sees fields and animals and plants which bear witness to human labour, and also hills, rocks, streams, birds, clouds, which owe nothing except their being seen to man.

He is praying to the father. In prayer, the will of the father is being made known, the will that intends Calvary. As he prays, tension is generated within the landscape round him, tension similar to that by the pool at Clermont, and similar to what I have now experienced elsewhere and elsewhen in reading Riddley Walker.

How to describe that tension? I think of it as between inanimate things. It is a kind of at-tension held and holding between water and clouds, stones and earth, and moving from them to inform plants and animals. How do clouds and rivers, stones, plants, animals, attend to each other in the presence of a humanity which they must suffer but cannot comprehend? A Wordsworthian question filled with childhood memory of the call of curlews over Welsh bogland, but asked now also in memory of that mute knowledge of what is done to the raw materials of the earth to make machines.

Out of that at-tension a cry goes forth. It is like a whisper, a murmuring, all but inaudible. And yet it pierces the ears. 1 think of one of those whistles which dogs can hear, but humans not. A mute, inanimate cry from the fields and the rocks and the hills, from the movement of the waters and from the stillness of the sky: “For the love of God, don’t do this thing to us”. A cry from inanimate creation to the son of man not to go up to Jerusalem, not to set in train the sequence of events which would lead to crucifixion, resurrection, Pentecost.

In my story it is not told whether Christ heard that cry.

I first wrote down such a story in 1957. Since then, it has been exposed to a lot of criticism, criticism not particularly sympathetic to its D.H. Lawrence flavour. It has proved one of my main paths into what I understand as my personal oedipal situation. But it also belongs in history, so I believe, obstinately. It certainly has a history of its own.

It has changed since 1957. The change began in my analysis with Jolande Jacobi, as I began to allow that what I was trying to carry was already being carried. It has been furthered by my growing acquaintance with Jung’s work on alchemy, and the need to relate that work to psychoanalytic theory. The change is that that cry has become more interrogative.

To begin with, “Don’t do this thing to us” sounded like a refusal: “You can’t do this to us”. That softened, into something more like: “Do you know what you are doing?”, assuming that if he did know he would draw back, and not go through with it, with the father’s will. This in turn opened into a wider interrogation, through reflection, prayer (especially in the context of the Eucharist), and analysis. so that the question: “Do you know what you are doing?” became more shared, drawing others in: “Does he know what he is doing?”. So that today, when I enter into that story, the cry I hear sounds more like: “Do you really know what you are going to do?”, asked in a tone that allows that he may.

This is a change. But it still leaves me with the original affect with which I wrote in 1957, affect born of wondering whether the Christian gospel foresees that act of violence by the pool at Clermont, the act in which mind was to become seized of the special objectivity which sustains modern science. This affect has proved difficult to express. At times, I have thought that I have neither the heart nor the stomach to try. When I did try eight years ago, I was left feeling thick, congested, over-determined. There was no resonance. The strings were there all right. But there was no sounding board.

Riddley Walker altered all that. In Riddley I have met someone with the same need to remember, whose need has drawn tens of thousands to listen. The sounding board is there. The rumour can be checked. There is a story to be remembered, however unlikely it may be, a history of events which have already happened, but which went untold at the time of happening.

Notes for Chapters on the History of Christianity and the History of Science: Foreword

When I first wrote those stories, the ecological and nuclear debates were not so developed as they are now. But in the 1960’s and 1970’s, the affect with which I wrote in private in 1948 and 1957 began to echo back at me in the public world, from press, radio, street demo and car stickers in French, German and English: You can’t do this to us: no thank you. There is a connection between my stories and the ecological-nuclear debate, but to make it a lot of historical work has to be done, work on the metaphysical foundations of modern science.

This, in my opinion, is where Jung’s psychology of alchemy belongs. What I have got from Jung’s work on alchemy is the belief that the christian hope of salvation and the experimental method of modern science are related. They are related through a debt. Jung’s psychology of alchemy is trying to remind us about this debt, how it is incurred, how it may be redeemed, how it may be foreclosed. To take Jung’s work further, we need to be sharing our own experiences of this debt.

This is not easy. It involves a confused matrix of personal associations to do with sex, time, waste, creation, which we cannot usefully talk about except in conditions of intimacy. I have presented my two stories, as a sort of confession, to suggest something of the stuff of which my own experience has been formed. Perhaps for some they already say too much, for others perhaps too little. Still, there they are. At least they allow for the idiosyncratic to be recognised and discounted. They can be talked about. They are just stories. They are there to meet other stories.

But talking about this debt also involves our reading of history, to which I now turn.

First, a warning as to the feeling tone of what I have to say. It is not possible to remain neutral in the presence of the hope of salvation. There is always the danger that such hope works out to be at the expense of others. It may leave something to be proved between those who have it and those who do not. Those who have it may try to convert those who do not. They may persecute them. Or, if they are not powerful enough to do either, they may choose to prove their hope by withdrawing into the punishing role of sacred victim. We have to keep asking ourselves: what is it that the hope of salvation is trying to prove?

If there are connections between the christian hope of salvation and the experimental method of modern science, there is a history to be written which at present exists only marginally, or between the lines, in the textbooks. I see this history as having three phases.

First, there are some centuries of assimilation, say to about 700 or 800 A.D. This was a process of taking in, chewing over, incorporating and finding words for, christian hope in salvation. There was Paul. There was the redaction of the four gospels. There were all the developments covered by a book like The Formation of Christian Dogma by Martin Werner (1957), followed by christianity becoming the official religion of the late Roman Empire, the century of the great councils, the definitive formulation of the creeds, the conversion of the barbarian conquerors of Rome, the growing estrangement between the eastern and western churches, the rise of Islam, the beginnings of monasticism and feudalism.

Within this period we already have the seeds of the second phase: the centuries of waking up to implications of christian conversion. I see this as covering a period of about a thousand years. It was a process of gradual realisation that, together with the experience of being saved, we had also gotten ourselves a new kind of freedom from participation in nature. There was more room for reflection. As a result, we seemed to have a radically new kind of ‘edge’ on matter. By the years between 1500 and 1700 A.D. this change became explicit, something which could be shared, admitted and laid claim to.

Then, the third phase: application. We use our new ‘edge’. The scientific and technological revolution of the last four hundred years is a triumphant showing of what we can now do with, and to, the material world.

I think of these phases as existing on top of each other, rather than one after the other: like a vertical column, with the passing of the centuries adding to the height. So that where we now are is grounded in all three, and on the overlap and mixing between them. To have an effect on what is to come, we must realise what we are standing on.

Here now are some more detailed notes for some of the chapters of this history, suitable perhaps for chapters six, eleven, and thirteen.

Chapter six deals with events in the middle of the eleventh century, a generation or so before the first crusade was launched at Clermont. Indirectly it involves the church at Canterbury, round which Riddley Walker will some day be trying to make a living. It deals with the controversy between Berengar of Tours and Lanfranc of Bec about exactly what happens to the bread and wine in the christian Eucharist. In what sense are they truly the body and blood of Christ?

This controversy is presented in the history books as the first major round in an argument that was to occupy a crucial position in christian theology right up to the seventeenth century, and continues to make itself felt today (see Stone, 1909). Two different movements of interpretation were making themselves felt with regard to the presence of Christ in the sacrament. The first is in the direction of naturalistic language and thought, and tends to suggest the idea of a physical, carnal presence. The second insists on the spiritual nature of the presence, even to the extent of impairing conviction that it was indeed the real body of Christ. In language with which readers of Harvest are perhaps more at home, though it distorts the distinction as they saw it then, the controversy was between a more literal and a more symbolic emphasis.

Argument on this issue had already a considerable history. What was new about the dispute between Berengar and Lanfranc was the use of philosophical terms derived, incompletely, uncertainly and with much misunderstanding, from classical Greece. In particular, the distinction between substance and accident, genera and species.

Here is how one historian describes this “profound modification of the thought of the period”.

Behind the world of appearances there were henceforth two worlds: the world of spiritual significances and the world of substance, genera and species. They could exist and to some extent had long existed side by side. But the first had long been rich with meaning and the authority of great names at a time when the second had done little more than provide material for classroom exercises. Henceforth it was to be different. The vitality of new discovery and revolutionary effect belonged to the second. By the third quarter of the eleventh century, the bearing of these philosophic ideas on long established theological doctrines began to be a pressing problem: the Trinity, the Manhood of Christ, the Sacraments, all invited and in part repelled the application to them of the idea of substance. The controversy between Lanfranc and Berengar was the first big scale theological dispute to be fought out under the dominance of this idea. It was not to be the last. (Southern, 1948, p.34)

This was a thousand years after the death of Christ, a thousand years ago. It was at a time when Western Europe was gathering itself for the first of those movements of conversion and conquest which were to culminate in the great colonial empires of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. What was happening?

Two streams were coming together. Both were concerned with what we call the withdrawal of projection. But the projections to be withdrawn were of different kinds. One was interested in God and human salvation. The other with human understanding of the material world. Both had centuries of passionate reflection behind them.

The christian stream had taken something like six hundred years to work out the implication of its experience of God. The centuries which produced the great christian creeds developed intellectual, reflective, analytic, concepts of a new kind. In particular, arguments about the dual nature of Christ, and about his relationship with his virgin mother and with the father by whom he was begotten but not made, developed distinctions between what is apparent and what real, between what is to be seen and what is hidden, of a kind previously unknown in human history.

The Greek stream drew on the minds of men who had lived before Christ. Over centuries, they had worked to detach idea, language, image, from an earlier state of participation with the material world. Their world was full of gods, but they remained immanent. The concepts they bequeathed to history were instinct with confidence in human ability to operate within the world by virtue of energies derived from the world.

As these two streams come together, something unprecedented happens. Power of a kind that had not been abroad before is loosed into the world.

If you have read Riddley Walker, try and imagine it from within the hart of the stoan in the wud as you contemplate the beaten metal of those incomprehensible prehistoric machines.

First there is the concentration of reflective power implicit in those centuries in which men struggled to define Christ’s relation to his father. I was brought up to believe that all that hair-splitting nonsense belonged to the past. I believe now that it matters a great deal for the future. The humanity of the power which creates the world is at stake. The humanity of the power lodged in our machines is at stake. To pick up the stake, we have to remember what those generations which produced the christian creeds were doing to human powers of reflection, the turn, which was also a break, which they gave to some spiral between mind and matter.

This christian power of reflection now conjugates with the Greek, ‘inviting and in part repelling’. They conjugate over the body and blood of the maker who is both victim and saviour. The Greek derives from reflection on processes of change from within the world of becoming. But now it is being applied to the God-man who came into the world of becoming in order to save humanity from that world. Berengar and Lanfranc and their successors are using understanding born of submission to ‘becoming’ to serve a different cause altogether: the cause of salvation from ‘becoming’.

That is what was so unprecedented. Man’s understanding of matter is being called upon to help prove his escape from matter. Mind is being separated from teeth and taste and chewing and digestion as it had never been separated before. Reflection on the material world is being brought to bear on conversions which mark man off, once and for all, from that world, conversions which enable men and women (but not animals) to ingest into themselves the body and blood of the God on which all matter depends for its being.

I do not find this told in the history books. This reception of Aristotelian thought into Western Europe is related in the history books to the beginnings of the modern scientific attitude. Yes. It is also related to new distinctions and differentiations to be made in medieval christian theology. Yes. But surely if we take the Eucharist seriously what was at stake at the time mattered in a way which fused these two effects. It fused scientific and theological reflection together in a complexity such as had never been known before.

I came to the Eucharist through psychoanalysis. I cannot forget the anthropological associations of its cannibalism. The same influences which moved me to baptism and confirmation in my early thirties moved me to the study of societies in which eating the dismembered god was a usual way of celebrating human participation in the world about us. At that time in my life I was reading widely in books which related the study of contemporary primitive societies with the origins of European thought in Mycenean, Homeric and pre-Socratic Greek culture. I was learning how ideas which we think of as philosophical are grounded in social experiences which are both economic and religious, in rituals which presuppose an easier conjugation between nature, man and God than we can imagine as likely, necessary, or even decent, today.

So when I try to reflect on what it meant to introduce Greek philosophical ideas to explain the christian Eucharist I have to go back to the origin of those ideas in prehistoric and preclassical Greece. They carry with them memories of participation between nature, man and God of a kind which the Biblical tradition treated as idolatrous. What happened to these memories when the philosophical ideas were so arbitrarily fused with christian teaching as to the presence of the body and blood of their Saviour in the consecrated bread and wine? Could they be simply forgotten, ignored, assumed to have no vitality any more? Or did they remain, latent within those newly potent ideas of substance, genera, and species, ready to suggest the possibility of new initiatives over matter to the minds of the recently converted Germanic peoples, as generation followed generation in testing the powers of thought against the social reality of religious rituals?

I am thinking of the work of people like Jane Harrison (1927), F.M. Cornford (1957), Werner Jaeger (1947 and 1948), George Thomson (1954), from an earlier generation; and of Gertrude Levy (1948), Onians (1954), Adkins (1770), Lloyd (1979), and Jean-Pierre Vernant (1982). Over seventy years and more, we have been learning more exactly how Greek philosophical ideas developed out of earlier levels of mythopoetic thought, in which human society, nature, and divinity, were experienced as an interconnected whole. At these levels, ideas of cause, energy, stuff, merit, responsibility, guilt, retribution, belonged within a common, polymorphous, matrix of experience. The Aristotelian concept of substance presupposes a grounding in this experience. To understand its effect on the christian understanding of the Eucharist, we must be open to the authority of anthropological traditions which the christian bible rejected as idolatrous. This is what I mean by the fusion of scientific and theological reflection in a complexity such as had never been known before.

Why is it that no history of medieval science has more than a passing reference to the Eucharist, although the transformations taking place in it engaged the attention of some of the greatest minds of the time? Non-christian historians may think it irrelevant. But nor do christian historians seem to think that it mattered outside church. I think it is because our history books are written from within a failure of mythopoetic thought. They divide what was not divided at the time. They are written from within a culture which can no longer imagine what human participation in the material world was like before christians, in celebrating their hope in salvation, separated the literal and the symbolic in a way they had never been separated before.

Psychoanalysis makes us think hard about how what is real is both literal and symbolic. It opens our minds to anthropologies other than those easily accessible to our own culture. It is a difficult, teasing, frustrating, provocative exercise. We need more of it in our writing of history. We need to be able and willing to allow for interdependencies which can seem crude, ridiculous, even obscene, to the cultivated mind of today. All those forgotten controversies over what came to be known as the doctrine of transubstantiation would read very differently if they were allowed to be about something real. They would find a place in the history of science which could alter the direction of scientific research and innovation.

By about chapter eleven …

One theologian and historian who allows that the Eucharistic controversy is about something real is Professor T.F. Torrance. In his book, Space, Time and Incarnation, he argues that the space time of modern physics has its historical origins in the theology of the Nicene Creed (Torrance, 1969). When that creed affirms that the eternal Son of God “for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven”, it asserts that God himself is actively present within the space and time of our world. The way in which this belief has been understood has a history. Our physical experience of space and time is conditioned by that history.

The middle chapter of his book is on ‘The Problem of Spatial Concepts in Reformation and Modern Theology’. One of the main themes in his argument turns on the question of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the same question which had been at stake between Berengar and Lanfranc. Torrance sees the theological argument involving radically different conceptions of space. One is of space as a receptacle, a container. The other is of space as open, differential, a system of relations.

Here are some extracts from his book, to illustrate the distinction he is making.

Late medieval thinking about space was activated for the most part by problems that arose out of the idea of the real presence. How can the body of Christ be contained in the host, and how can it be in many hosts at the same time? (p.27)

The receptacle notion of space was immensely important for Luther for it was his way of asserting the reality and actuality of the Son of God in our human and earthly existence, and so he concentrated his thought with a furious intensity upon the fact that the whole Son and Word of God is contained in the infant of Bethlehem and communicated to us in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. (p.30)

It was largely due to Lutheran retention of the receptacle notion of space in the doctrines of the real presence and the incarnation that an alliance was made possible between Protestant theology and the new physics of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, which also operated with a receptacle notion of space. (p.30)

But in contrast to the receptacle idea of space, we also have the relational:

Luther’s treatment of the problems of space is … dialectical. On the one hand, he operated with a strictly receptacle idea of space in his doctrine of the real presence. This enabled him to lay stress upon the hoc est corpus meum, which became for him the ontological nail that held the two kingdoms together, and made possible real participation of one in the other. He knew that if ever there were to be substituted for the hoc est a hoc significat, the two kingdoms would fly apart and all that would be left would be an unbridgeable dualism with only a paradoxical and vague symbolic relation between them … On the other hand, Luther brought back the biblical conception of the living and active God which had tended to drop out of sight in the medieval world, but which now reintroduced a dynamic relation between God and the world that eventually helped to destroy the static conception of space that prevailed in the Middle Ages. (p.34)

Torrance sees the relational idea of space as the origin of the Einsteinian space of modern physics, in contrast to the container notion of space which

came to be fully elaborated and built into the fabric of classical physics by Newton in a way which, as Einstein himself has admitted, was the only possible and fruitful one at the time.

The relational idea of space connects with eucharistic theology in the question: how is the bread and wine, which is the body and blood of Christ, related to the resurrected body of Christ in heaven? Can a body be in two different places at the same time? Answers which emphasise the dynamic activity of God not in space but as creative of space reject a receptacle or container view of space. Torrance finds the historical thread of such answers in the Greek fathers, in various medieval thinkers, and in Calvin. The question how Christ’s body is both in many different breads all over the world, and also in heaven, breaks open all static conceptions of ‘whereness’, and replaces them with a sense of embodied place as dynamic, geometric and elastic. This, Torrance argues, is one source of Einsteinian space-time.

It is a difficult argument to follow, especially for those of us who have never learned to understand relativity theory. But if there are indeed connections between christian theology of incarnation and modern physics, it is an argument we have to dwell on. In writing of Riddley Walker I have referred to the mute witness of machines. It seems to me that the connection Torrance is encouraging us to make could help us to interpret that mute witness, and thereby to take part more effectively in the world drama which is being played out between our machines and our environment.

Here is a paragraph from Torrance’s book in which he spells out some of the implications of embodied space as dynamic, geometric and elastic:

Another way to express the co-ordination of divine and human centres of reference in the space-time of the Incarnation seems to be offered by the analogy of topological language in which physicists seek to represent the difficult elastic connections between the dynamical and geometrical aspects of things or between quite different kinds of space. An attempt was made in a similar direction by some of the Greek Fathers to connect up the different ways in which we must speak about topos or place in accordance with the human divine natures of Christ, physical topos and divine topos, and in which we must take into account a variational shift in the meaning and range of the concepts employed. The analogy used by John of Damascus for this purpose was that of ‘mental place’, topos noeetos, which he defined as place where mind is active and energizes and is contained not in a bodily but in a mental fashion. Apart from its special significance for him, in helping him to escape the toils of Aristotle’s definition of place which he unfortunately adopted, this served a double purpose: in contrast to Euclidean space, which is void of energy, it offered him a way of linking up physical space with divine space through the concept of energy or nonobservable activity, and it enabled him to express the fact that the physical space of Christ on earth is open to passage beyond the limitations of the body. While He became incarnate within the physical space of the body He assumed, Christ was not confined or circumscribed by it. He thus became man without leaving the bosom of the Father, and while He became flesh He did not abandon His own immateriality. (pp.81-2)

Readers of Harvest may compare this with pp.58-60 in Dr von Franz’s book on Projection and Recollection in Jungian Psychology (von Franz, 1980). She is also concerned with the historical change between Newton and Einstein in their understanding of space. But Torrance has a different kind of commitment to the theological context, and is making a point about the historical relationship between body and space which eludes von Franz. When he writes of the fact that the physical space of Christ on earth is open to passage beyond the limitations of the body he is directing questions about space back into a more fleshly questioning of what it is like for bodies to be in space. The very nature of ‘whereness’ is being called into question. Space as a mathematical abstraction is being subordinated to the place of body, body as living and body as dead. Whereness is being immediately related to body as both victimised and saving, meet for sacrifice and agent of resurrection.

That is the whereness which sets the scene for what I have called the world drama being played out between our machines and our environment. We will be better able to take our part in that drama when we recognize the scene for what it is: a place that itself has body, a body open to passage beyond limits which are both internal and external to itself. Space is not just there, to be taken for granted. Space participates in the drama which sustains it. If we take it as given, irrespective of bodies, we may find that we have annihilated it. The alternative is to remember it as embodied, as dependent on a drama which is as much human as divine, as always requiring that we know how to replenish it.

Think of our cars, for instance. They go some way towards annihilating space. Yet they also provide a deceptively cosy and protected space to contain our bodies. Within that space, our bodies can remain at rest and yet move at speeds which are humanly impossible (a familiar example of what Torrance calls “the difficult elastic connections between the dynamical and geometrical aspects of things”). How do our bodies relate to the bodies of our cars, those machines which temporarily environ us yet do so much to alter and in some cases destroy a wider environment? There is a whole macrocosmic drama of competing eco-systems being played out in the microcosmic frustrations, exhaustions and satisfactions of that familiar relationship.

Looked at through our dreams, this drama is of a richness and complexity which helps to explain how we manage life on our roads. Many car dreams carry some degree of ‘projective identification’ between body and machine. The two merge. There is confusion as to which comes first, which is using the other. In this confusion there are feelings of guilt, betrayal, vindictiveness. Servant becomes master, and the master is suddenly without power. A wider environment can be invoked to save us from a closer imprisonment. What we thought was a distance to be overcome turns out to be a place of rest.

How we interpret these dreams depends a lot on our understanding of space. If space is given, irrespective of bodies, then what goes on between us and our cars has to be understood as taking place within that container. But if space is itself embodied, then those goings on may be reminding us what it is like to participate in ‘the difficult elastic connections between the dynamical and geometrical aspects of things’. And our dreams about those goings on may be a primary source for realising the feel of that elasticity.

Cars are not the most dangerous of the machines we have created. But they are familiar, and if we are to manage the more complex and impersonal machines on which our environment now depends, we must start with the familiar. How we manage life on our roads can help us manage life on our planet. The ecological debate has to be drawn into our national and international political process. There are balances to be struck, and risks to be taken, between innovation and conservation, between enjoying and replenishing resources. Sexual metaphors abound, metaphors of harmony, waste, consummation, exploitation, pleasure in pain. I believe that we have it in us to open this process into more responsive passion and experiment if we can remember its history, a history in which guilt, sacrifice, forgiveness and judgment have entered into the constitution of space itself. By this historical dilation of our understanding our political processes may come to participate more responsively in the drama being played out between our machines and our environment.

For christians and non-christians this historical dilation of understanding has to include the christian Eucharist. There is a ‘where’ on which eucharistic reflection is willing to dwell. It is a physical space, yet open to passage beyond its own limitations. It assumes that one is also, effectively, many. The way into that one-and-many effectiveness has been opened. The opening involves a breaking of a body into pieces and the pouring out of blood. If we have taken advantage of that opening in creating our modern world, we must either remember for ourselves the advantage we have taken, or it will be remembered against us. Which is why we need to be able to feel the full power of that deep antagonism which rightly exists between christian and non-christian. Without it, what we have done may not be believed until it is too late.

But it is not only ‘where’ on which eucharistic reflection is willing to dwell. It also questions our ‘when’. Questioning the real presence of Christ in bread and wine involves time as well as space. How is the flesh and blood of which we partake now related to Christ’s body when he lived on earth, and when he will come again?

By about chapter thirteen, or perhaps later …

In the Church of England synod debate on The Bomb earlier this year, the Archbishop of York urged christians to remember the eschatological traditions which have informed so much of our history.

The Times reported him as follows:

Dr. Stuart Blanch said this debate was about the end of the world and about how one might best delay it. The report was primarily concerned with the moral and political issues and gave only incidental attention to the theological environment within which the moral and political issues had to be discussed.

But in this debate, as distinct from the report itself, the church ought to be seen to be concerned with the theological, not just moral and political, issues.

The ancient world was haunted by the fear of universal disaster, less specific than present fears of a nuclear disaster. What was distinctive about the christian attitude to the end of the world was that it was associated with joy and not just with fear.

The world will have to live forever now with the fear of nuclear disaster, either as a consequence of military action or of industrial accident. Nothing this synod can say or do can alter that situation. The secret of nuclear power cannot be disinvented; the research laboratories of the world cannot be dismantled. There is no system of surveillance, however extensive and exact, which can actually prevent the manufacture of nuclear weapons.

So, while we have to do everything in our power to reduce the likelihood of nuclear disaster, we cannot again ever exclude it. From now on every generation will be aware that it could be the last generation on the Earth. So we are not dealing with just a moral or political issue, but with a spiritual and theological one: how to enable mankind to live with the fear, not just with the threat.

There is a special kind of reflection which christians have brought to the four last things: death, judgment, heaven and hell. We should not be afraid to use it. Indeed, perhaps it is what the world needs now from christians more than anything else.

Then there is the word obscene. It is said that there is something so obscene about the idea of nuclear war that it is immoral to make plans to survive it (see the letters in The Guardian early in 1983 following an article by Doris Lessing in which she advocated the building of nuclear aid raid shelters). The sermons I hear in church do not use the word obscene. But they do convey a sense of shame and dirt as being associated with thinking about nuclear war.

I want to bring our sense of the obscene, of shame and dirt, to bear on christian eschatology, with its curious mixture of joy and fear, in the belief that together they can help steady us in controlling our inventiveness. The effect may be disturbing. I would ask the reader to bear in mind my introductory remarks about holiness and madness.

A familiar expression of christian eschatological imagination is in Charles Wesley’s hymn which we sing during Advent.

Lo, he comes with clouds descending,
Once for favoured sinners slain;
Thousand thousand saints attending
Swell the triumph of his train:
Christ appears on earth to reign.

Every eye shall now behold him
Robed in dreadful majesty;
Those who set at naught and sold him,
Pierced and nailed him to the Tree,
Deeply wailing,
Shall the true Messiah see.

Those dear tokens of his passion
Still his dazzling body bears,
Cause of endless exultation
To his ransomed worshippers:
With what rapture,
Gaze we on those glorious scars!

Yea, amen, let all adore thee,
High on thine eternal throne;
Saviour, take the power and glory,
Claim the kingdom for thine own:
Thou shalt reign and thou alone.

A hundred, two hundred years, before Wesley, that dreadful majesty, those glorious scars, could remind people of the rapture with which christians were burning each others bodies to save each others souls. D.P. Walker has written a book called The Decline of Hell, in which he records the history of growing doubt, during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, about the doctrine of the eternity of hell (Walker, 1964). The authors he quotes talk a lot about deterrence. Here is an extract from his discussion of the views of Jeremiah White, born in 1630, fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, and one time chaplain to Oliver Cromwell:

God’s justice and anger, for White, are an aspect of His love. Nothing is more contrary to love than sin. When the infinite power of God’s love meets sin, it burns it and kills it. This loving wrath is directed solely against the sin, not against the sinner… Thus love is a Death to everything that should dye. 0, how kind is the cruelty of this Death! 0, how faithfully cruel is the kindness of this killing love!

And, finally this destructive love will consume all sin, purify all souls, and there will be no more suffering. White believes in the natural, inevitable connexion between sin and suffering. The suffering is the shame and remorse of the sinner when made fully aware of his own state. For the wicked this will happen only after the resurrection, when they will be ‘enlightened’ by seeing the glory and felicity of the elect. But the most terrible enlightenment will be the direct contact with God’s love. The same burning love that will be bliss for the saved will be agony for the wicked, until their sins are burnt up:

God himself puts forth himself immediately and naked upon them, at once to torment them, and also to sustain them for their Torments … 0! who can express the riches of the Joy and Glory of those spirits, upon whom God shall appear immediately and nakedly as a Friend, as a Lover in Union with them? And who can express those Pangs, those Horrors, those unspeakable and nameless things which that poor Soul must then sink under, upon whom the same God shall appear with the same nakedness of his Godhead, in a direct contrariety to it, making his Glory itself a Fire upon it. (Pp. 112-113)

The identity of God’s love and hell fire. It was real. Thousands upon thousands of fires had born witness.

Later in his book, Walker comments dismissively on this belief: ‘a combination of love and vengeance, except in Freudian psychology, comes near to nonsense’. Those of us for whom Freud’s work is more familiar may prefer not to be so dismissive. We could try instead to move psychoanalytic insight into sado-masochism towards the public interfaces between politics and science. There is something peculiarly obscene about the conjunction of what Freud called the anal and the genital. But those of us who have found in owning that obscenity a new humour, patience and ability to tolerate contradiction can bear witness to a certain wry human truth within it. If we are to learn to live with the fear that we could be the last generation on earth it may he just that truth we need.

So let us stay with this ‘near to nonsense’ and see what happens if we allow the affect it arouses in us to influence our reading of the history of science. I would ask the reader to entertain a question, a question which I have not found in any of the history books. Could the combination of love and vengeance which we find in some expressions of Christian eschatology be one of the ingredients that gives our modern science its peculiar inventiveness, inventiveness of a kind which is unique to the last three hundred years of human history?

Fifty years ago the mathematician philosopher A.N. Whitehead wrote of this inventiveness in his book Science and the Modem World:

The greatest invention of the nineteenth century was the invention of the method of invention. A new method entered into life. In order to understand our epoch, we can neglect all the details of change, such as railways, telegraphs, radios, spinning machines, synthetic dyes. We must concentrate on the method itself; that is the real novelty, which had broken up the foundations of the old civilisation. (Whitehead, 1928, p. 120)

Whitehead is referring to what is called the problem of induction. The inventiveness of modern science is built on the testing of hypotheses. We frame an hypothesis, devise an experiment to prove or disprove it, and as a result are able to invent new ways to change or manipulate matter. But how and why does this method work?

Some scientists and philosophers of science seem to claim to have an answer. Others do not, and prefer to puzzle about whether we have got the question right. Fifty years ago Whitehead was prepared to admit that a very disturbing contradiction was at stake here. He described the invention of the method of invention as grounded in a ‘radical inconsistency at the basis of modern thought’, an inconsistency which assumes that the future exercises an anticipatory pull over the present but acknowledges cause as working only from past to present:

The enterprises produced by the individualistic energies of the European peoples presuppose physical actions directed to final causes. But the science which is employed in their development is based on a philosophy which asserts that physical causation is supreme, and which disjoins the physical cause from the final end. It is not popular to dwell upon the absolute contradiction here involved. (pp.94-95)

With the rise of the ecological and nuclear debates it is no longer unpopular to dwell on the effects of this absolute contradiction. But are we any nearer understanding it? “The secret of nuclear power cannot be disinvented; the research laboratories of the world cannot be dismantled”. If we are to control the effects of our inventiveness we will need surveillance of a kind which can reach behind and beyond its effects into the method which makes them possible. We will have to be reflecting humanly, and that means socially, politically, on the invention of the method of invention so that under-standing of a new kind is possible. The problem of induction is pressing.

In the text-books, some of the most interesting attempts to explain induction are in terms of the theory of probability. Without probability theory we would have no quantum physics, no release of nuclear energy. Nor would we have insurance, bookmaking, annuities, weather forecasts, industrial quality control, population genetics, every form of statistical enquiry. Without it, our modern world would not exist. Probability theory, which can seem so obscene when applied to war games of nuclear deterrence, is necessary to the peculiar inventiveness of sciences on which we rely for our living.

What I have got out of my two stories, as they have been drawn out into a more public world through the reading of Riddley Walker, is the belief that the effectiveness of probability theory is related to christian eschatology, and in particular to what that eschatology has done to our relation to matter.

I am thinking of many passages in the book. Take sections 12 to 15 from the Eusa Story.

12. Eusa sed tu the Littl Man the Addom, I nead tu no the No. uv the 1 Big 1 & yu mus tel me it. The Littl Man the Addom he sed, Yu du no it Eusa its in yu the saym as its in me. Eusa sed, I doan no it yu mus tel it tu me. The Littl Man sed, Eusa yu no wut that 1 Big 1 is its the No. uv thay Master Chayrijis I doan hav no werd tu tel it. Eusa sed, If yu woan tel in 1 may be yul tel in 2. Eusa wuz pulin on the Little Mans owt strecht arms. The Littl Man sed, Eusa yu ar pulin me a part. Eusa sed, Tel.

13. Eusa wuz angre he wuz in rayj & he kep pulin on the Littl Man the Addoms owt strecht arms. The Littl Man the Addom he begun tu cum a part he cryd, I wan to go I wan tu stay. Eusa sed, Tel mor. The Addom sed, I wan tu dark I wan tu lyt I wan tu day I wan tu nyt. Eusa sed, Tel mor. The Addom sed, I wan tu woman I wan tu man. Eusa sed, Tel mor. The Addom sed, I wan tu plus I wan tu minus I wan tu big I wan tu littl I wan tu aul I wan tu nuthing.

14. Eusa sed, Stop ryt thayr thats the No. I wan. I wan that aul or nuthing No. The Littl Man the Addom he cudn stop tho. He wuz ded. Pult in 2 lyk he wuz a chikken. Eusa screamt he felt lyk his oan bele ben pult in 2 & evere thing rushin owt uv him.

15. Owt uv thay 2 peaces uv the Littl Shynin Man the Addom thayr cum shyningnes in wayvs in spredin circels. Wivverin & wayverin & humin with a by soun. Lytin up the dark wud. Eusa seen the Littl 1 goin roun & roun insyd the Big 1 & the Big 1 humin roun insyd the Littl 1. He seen thay Master Chaynjis uv the 1 Big 1. Qwik then he riten down thay Nos. uv them.

I think something like that has happened in history. But to get it into our history books, into the public world of political debate on how to control the working of our research laboratories, we will need to mix religion and science, to cross passion with reflection, desire with calculation, in ways which may so stretch our present imagination as to threaten to pul uz a part.

For example, let us consider the event known as Pascal’s wager.

This is to be found in his Pensées, in the section headed ‘Infinity – Nothing’. It is written in the same generation as Jeremiah White wrote of the identity of God’s love and hell fire. Pascal is addressing himself to the question of how the expectation of an eternity of life and happiness should influence us either to believe or not believe in God:

‘God is or is not’. But which way shall we lean? Reason can settle nothing here; there is an infinite gulf between us. A game is on, at the other end of this infinite distance, and heads or tails will turn up. What will you wager? According to reason you cannot do either: according to reason you cannot leave either undone. (Pascal, tr. Stewart, 1950, section 223)

This wager is well known in the history of modem theology. But it is also described in the histories of science as a strategic moment in the emergence of probability theory in the seventeenth century. It is a critical moment of meeting, and perhaps of separation, between the history of christianity and the history of science. A recent student of this emergence of probability theory has written:

Pascal’s wager is the name given to some gametheoretic considerations that concern belief in God. They were intended as a contribution to apologetics, and became widely known as such. But these fragments in the Pensées had an important byproduct: they showed how aleatory arithmetic [that is, the arithmetic of dice] could be part of a general ‘art of conjecturing’. They made it possible to understand that the structure of reasoning about games of chance can be transferred to inference that is not founded on any chance set-up. (Hacking, 1975, Chapter 8.)

Something out of the ordinary is happening here. Risk, randomness, and judgment are being brought together in an unprecedented combination. Human judgment about God’s likely judgment of humanity is being related to the structure of reasoning about games of chance. Together, they make it possible for human reason to infer correctly where previously it has only been able to guess.

We must not hang it all on Pascal. He was one of many. The book from which I have quoted places his work in a wider context of seventeenth century thought, ranging from alchemy and medicine to the first mistakes made by governments in reckoning annuities for pension purposes. Over a wide area of human experience, what had been random was beginning to prove measurable, and therefore copyable. This ability to copy randomness is one of the factors that lie behind what Whitehead calls ‘the invention of the method of invention’.

But Pascal’s wager reminds us of what could be at stake here, if there is by any chance a creator God. In learning to copy the randomness of creation we may have appropriated to ourselves the arbitrariness of the creator. At the other end of an infinite distance a game is on. Heads or tails will turn up. In learning to reckon the odds, to anticipate randomness, we have dared to take on ourselves the risk of an arbitrariness previously born by the creator. This is the risk we have to familiarise ourselves with as we move into a future when “every generation will be aware that it could be the last generation on Earth”.

Where did we get the daring to take this risk? It is a religious question. It is also a question of the history of science. The two must be brought together, however clumsy our first attempts may be.

The answer I am suggesting is that it arose in response to disappointment: disappointment at the apparent arbitrariness of an unrealised eschatology.

Christian eschatology derives from an expectation which was disappointed. To understand the invention of the method of invention, I believe we have to go back to the beginning of our era, to those generations in which Christ’s second coming did not come, when future and past were torn apart as they had never been since the beginning, and we learned to dwell in that tear.

That hymn of Wesley’s, that quotation from Jeremiah White, have a long history behind them: a history of disappointed anticipation. Christianity established itself in overcoming disappointment. Disappointment was converted into proof. Unfulfilled anticipation was turned back on the present so as to change the way people behaved. Over centuries, human thought and feeling and imagination were trained and exercised in drawing conviction out of a judgment that was promised but always postponed.

I think that what happened between about 1500 and 1700 A.D. was that we began saying to ourselves: if we can believe that God can do this to us, why can’t we believe that we can do it to matter? A method which had been conceived and refined in metaphysical reflection was ready to be used physically. It was based on anticipation and experiment. It set up an hypothesis about the future. It exposed that hypothesis to disappointment by experiment. Anticipation was interrogated. The verdict of that interrogation was accepted as effectively true. Francis Bacon called the new method putting nature to the torture, at a time when torture had an accepted place in legal interrogation to ascertain fact (see Collingwood, 1940, pp.238-39). Boyle wrote that science and religion were united in recognising that our limited human intellect can form right notions only with the help of the patterns offered in the works and the verdicts of God (see Hooykaas, 1972). The laws of nature as we understand them today were beginning to be ascertained by verdict of experiment. If God can do it to us, why cannot we do it to matter?

The arbitrariness of the creator appropriated by the human experimenter: this is what we have to own if there is to be effective political surveillance of the work being done in our research laboratories. Such owning needs passion of the kind we are familiar with in ecological groups and movements. It also needs understanding of a kind that can only come from historical recollection.

One precursor of hypothetical reasoning as it emerged in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was what is known as ‘the method of annihilation’. For all its contemporary resonance of nuclear war games, this is a term from medieval scholasticism. It refers to a way of arguing about the nature of space. Greek philosophy bequeathed to its successors certain arguments as to whether or not there could be truly empty space, which received new urgency when they were taken up by christian reflection on the whereness of God. By the fourteenth century one of the accepted methods of arguing about the fullness or emptiness of space was to imagine what it would be like if God where to annihilate all or part of the matter within the material plenum of our world. This method, inconceivable apart from belief in a God who creates ex nihilo, was one constituent of the changed experience of space which gradually imposed itself on the minds of the new men of science. So that by 1655, for instance, Thomas Hobbes can say:

In the teaching of natural philosophy, I cannot begin better than from privation; that is, from feigning the world to be annihilated. (Quoted in Grant, 1981, Chapter 8.)

Scholars are tracing the passage of this idea from medieval theology to the physics of Newton, and on to the theories of relativity which underwrite our nuclear physics. If they are right, it seems reasonable to accept that there is an historical connection between mystical experience of God’s presence or absence, theological reflection on that experience, mathematical and physical ideas of space, and the hypothetical-experimental method. But does this connection mean anything outside the history books? Does it affect us in our anxieties about nuclear power, and more generally about that inventiveness which we both enjoy and fear? “From now on every generation will be aware that it could be the last generation on the Earth”. We have to learn to talk more easily about our fascination with how nothingness and the infinite are connected. Their relationship has got into our mathematics and our physics. Now we have to take it into our feeling, into the exchanges between men and women and children where politics begin. For this, we need what Paul Ricoeur in his book on The Symbolism of Evil has called the language of confession (Ricoeur, 1969).

Judgments which connect nothingness and the infinite are essentially hazardous. Holiness and madness meet most dangerously in them. Yet we are making them, and there is evidence that some of us passionately enjoy being involved in the making. To draw them into our political processes we need to experiment with new ways of talking. We will need to be able to say things to each other which may sound silly or shocking, but which nevertheless witness to something truly present in our experience. We need a new kind of confidence in claiming a place in history for what Ricoeur describes as the blind, equivocal and scandalous.

For this we need a language which is vulgar as well as learned. We must not be ashamed of the pettiness of personal story. On the contrary, we should welcome it, as humanising both holiness and madness. Speaking the language of confession more easily and vulgarly is the only way we can ensure that the presence of religious guilt and retribution in the interrogations of science is taken up into the grass roots of political process.

Conclusion or Prognosis

In the discussion after I read this paper to the Analytical Psychology Club in May, someone referred to a remark of Jung’s about the next fifty years of human history being perhaps the last. Is that how it is to be?

I have tried to listen to two voices, and in that listening to reverberate our fear of a violence which is mad and obscene, not to be thought of and yet compulsively planned for. Listening, I have wondered about the terrible interdependence of fear and wish. Psychoanalysis reflects long and painfully on this interdependence. Can we bring such reflection into the national and international political processes which determine our next fifty years?

Possibly, if there can be movement between various places and levels in our experience.

Between the research scientist and the politicians the question of invention is at stake. How is our inventiveness to be regulated? I recognise in myself and others a powerful movement of the spirit which would be glad to disinvent the method of invention. I believe it to be wrong. A powerful and articulate No to indiscriminate invention is certainly needed, and has to be taken up into our political processes. But it has to be contained within a more comprehensive Yes. We have to learn to understand our inventiveness in a way which will include the No to particulars as proof of a more general Yes.

This can he put in terms of power. Politicians deal in power. They know the power of scientific technology. They know it is necessary to our survival. If it is to be restrained and held in check they will listen to voices of caution only if those voices are saying an essential Yes to the method of invention itself. There are balances to be struck, and risks to be taken, between innovation and conservation, between enjoying and replenishing resources, which will allow of our No in some cases as long as that No is carried on a confident Yes to the underlying method itself.

For that to happen we will have to find ways of sharing and articulating among ourselves guilt, anxiety and fear of retribution. I have argued that the ecological and nuclear debate draws on anxieties which are specifically christian. These derive from our appropriation of the arbitrariness of the creator. We have to learn to talk to each other about this arbitrariness. We cannot expect to be taught how to do this by our rulers. The most we can expect from them is that they will keep their options open, as more diffuse political processes get the feel of the odds inherent in the risk we have taken on ourselves.

Here the attitude of christians to modem science and technology could prove decisive, as between a redirection of our inventiveness, or its conclusion in a dead end of our own making. Are we going to own our responsibility for the power of experiment over matter which has converted the world during the last three hundred years? To put the matter bluntly: the research laboratories of our present age would be inconceivable without the mystical body of Christ. How does this affect our christian worship?

But not only christians have to answer. Others worship too, from before and outside Christ. In my 1975 paper I tried to express the position as I see it between christian and non-christian responsibility for the work against nature. I ended with two questions:

Can the non-christian heirs to christian technology accept that christianity guards the secret of their power over nature? And can the christian guardians – both living and dead – accept that there is, and always has been, a dimension to their faith which only non-christians can understand?

Since then, and particularly in the affect released in me and others by reading Riddley Walker, I have come to realise the depths of feeling which those questions are going to evoke as they raise themselves to our consciousness in years to come. Which is why I have written of violence and obscenity, cannibalism and the terrible mixing of joy and fear, love and vengeance. We need such soil if the deep and justified antagonism between christian and nonchristian is to make itself felt within our political processes. In the history of that antagonism there is affect of a kind which we must own if we are to humanise the vast energies unlocked in the work against nature, and negotiate effectively with an inventiveness which is now servant and master of us all.

Jung’s psychology of alchemy belongs with that affect. Those extraordinary volumes are much more than a new, or rediscovered, symbolism. They do much more than extend our imaginal resources in interpreting transference, dreams, symptoms. They revise the history of science and the history of christianity. We can ignore them. We can bracket them out of serious consideration, with slighting reference to their gnosticism, to hermetic and heretical traditions. Or we can allow them into the mainstream of historical reflection.

With few exceptions, Jung’s work on alchemy is not mentioned in the histories of science. Why? Because it introduces a disturbing language into science – the language of confession. In Jung’s work on alchemy, the language of confession as we know it in psychoanalysis takes on historical obligations.

As Ricoeur has emphasised, confession is the language out of which myth, gnosis, speculation, all grow:

The experience of which the penitent makes confession is a blind experience, still embedded in the matrix of emotion, fear, anguish. It is this emotional note that gives rise to objectification in discourse; the confession expresses, pushes to the outside, the emotion which without it would be shut up in itself, as an impression of the soul. Language is the light of the emotions. Through confession the consciousness of fault is brought into the light of speech; through confession man remains speech, even in the experience of his own absurdity, suffering and anguish. (1969, p.7)

This is the language we need to get into the grass roots of our political processes if our scientific inventiveness is to be carried on a Yes that contains its own No. In alchemy, experiment and confession are yoked together, yet work across each. Interrogation is directed towards the human worker as well as the prima materia. It is conjugal. Experiment is related sexually to the inorganic world in metaphor derived from animal and vegetable. The mysticism of the body is materialised in cross examination. Alchemy has within it the makings of a vernacular: a vernacular in which we could talk to each other naturally about the religious satisfactions derived from scientific experiment.

Confessionally we can talk sense about the terrible interdependence of fear and wish. Terrible, and, let us always remember, seemingly most unlikely. How could it be possible that we should wish for anything so appalling as nuclear war? Just to say the question is to measure the unlikeliness of what is at stake.

This unlikeliness of the link between wish and fear is our greatest danger. This is what can make imagination seize up, prevent reflection, and commit us to totalitarian solutions, whether they be military, political, religious, scientific. To meet it, we need each other’s help. There are experiences to be shared which are blind and dumb, still embedded in a matrix of emotion, fear and anguish. To get them into politics, we have to get them into history, into a telling in which we have public as well as private parts.

Such telling requires that we be willing to give of ourselves so that others may have something to get their teeth into. Whatetever the wish may be that mushrooms hiddenly in our fear of nuclear holocaust, it is unlikely to objectify itself in discourse if we are shy or embarrassed of appearing absurd, suffering or in anguish.

And the telling requires that we listen, listen as we may never have listened before. A mute witness waits to be heard, bound in our machines and in what we have chosen to call the inorganic. To hear its story, our ears should be attentive for something at least as unlikely as the word becoming flesh.


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Alchemy and Psychosis: Curiosity and the Metaphysics of Time

(Originally published in Harvest, the Journal of the London Jung Club, in 1988)

This essay is conceived as an extended gloss on some ideas I sketched out in my paper on Alchemy: Jung and the historians of science. I am interested in possible connections between psychosis and metaphysics, connections of a kind which would enhance rather than deny the importance of both. Alchemy has been my way into exploring such connections. How it relates to Jung I am not sure. In his work on alchemy, was Jung a psychologist, a physician of the soul, or was he also a metaphysician, a man working within a tradition much older than psychology, working within and on the science of Being, often known by its Greek name of onto-logy?

The paper is in three parts.

The first introduces the word metaphysics. What do I mean by it? How do I use it in relation to Jung?

The second is autobiographical. If alchemy is indeed about the process of individuation, an autobiographical approach is surely justified. This will introduce the theme of psychosis. I recapitulate some of my own engagement with Jung-on-alchemy over forty years, so as to illustrate how psychology can overflow into metaphysics. This overflowing gives the paper a peculiar quality. The question is whether this is evidence of psychosis in a clinical sense, or of the kind of feeling which comes naturally when we find ourselves in the presence of Being.

The third part is about curiosity. I want to suggest the effect that metaphysics (of a kind which allows for psychosis) can have on scientific curiosity. I do so by looking at Jung’s ideas on synchronicity and the timelessness of the collective unconscious in relation to my own alchemical dreaming. A key theme will be of a metaphysical connection between time and sexuality.

The one abiding thought I hope to leave with the reader is that Jung’s work on alchemy can contribute to a kind of scientific curiosity which is sustainable rather than self-consuming.

Introducing the Word Metaphysics

In Alchemy: Jung and the Historians of Science I introduced this word with reference to a possible future dialogue about alchemy between Jungians and the historians of science. I said that if such a dialogue was to develop we would need to make room for three areas of research and argument. One would be about what I wanted to call ‘soul stuff’. The second would be about metallurgy and technology. The third would be about ontology or metaphysics (I am using the two words interchangeably).

So as to put this word metaphysics within the context of a wider agenda of research, let me repeat what I wrote about these three themes.

Soul stuff is better than psychology to express the intellectual difficulty posed by Jung-the-physician’s work. It emphasises the inert, clammy, quality of prima materia when applied to psychic states such as depression, paranoia, compulsion. It reminds us of the links between Jung’s psychology of alchemy and Freudian emphasis on such terms as anality and id. It serves to remind us that the metallurgical tradition also involves the artisan’s experience of the intractable fusion of his own toil with the resistance of matter to human labour, experience which has given the teaching of Karl Marx such worldwide appeal.

This is an area in which the historians are not particularly adept. But the second, the metallurgical and technological, is an area in which we Jungians also badly lack proficiency. We need help in recognising connections between work done in a psychic laboratory and the history of what Stephen Toulmin called (1962) The Architecture of Matter.

The third area, ontology, will I believe prove the most difficult to admit into research and argument. The anti-metaphysical positivism of so many of Jung’s followers is active in denying the implicit ontology in which his work rests, while few historians are interested in the kind of doubts about time necessary for the recognition of Being. But if soul stuff and chemical technology are to be admitted into research as kindred subjects it will only be by way of an historical interest in the science of Being.

That is the agenda I have in mind for future dialogue between Jungians and historians of science. Before we can arrive at it, however, there are two questions which have to be addressed. Are Jungians prepared to own the implicit ontology in which Jung’s interest in alchemy rests? And would non-Jungians be able to make more sense of Jung-on-alchemy if his work were presented as a contribution to the history of metaphysics as well as to psychology?

The first difficulty is that Jung himself frequently insisted that he was not a metaphysician. This problem has been discussed by others as well as myself. This is not the place to go into it at length. I simply want to say that I believe that Jung wanted to distance himself from the kind of metaphysics associated with German 19th century thought, but that in his interest in the numinous, the archetypal and in what he called participation mystique, he was through and through a metaphysician. Which is not to say that he wasn’t also a scientist. He was that best kind of scientist, one who knows that all sustainable knowledge has to be grounded in, and answerable to, respect for Being.

But is ‘respect for Being’ something which anyone, Jungian or non-Jungian, is prepared to acknowledge nowadays?

My first attempt to talk about this was in a paper on Projection, Presence, Profession read to the Analytical Psychology Club in 1973, and published in Spring 1975. More recently, I came back to it in two lectures on Jung and Hermeneutics. Neither attempt has evoked any response in Jungian circles. For my present purpose a more impressionistic, anecdotal, approach may prove more suitable.

When my son was about four, we were in the garden together one summer afternoon. There were butterflies about, and he asked some question about them. I told him what I know of their life cycle, the length of time spent as a caterpillar compared to the brief life span with wings and flight through the air. His response was immediate, angry – a concentrated anger with the force of an explosion: “What’s the point then?”

I would say that that response shows respect for Being. It is there in immediate affect when we are suddenly brought up against the transience of beings with a small b. It is there when our attention is caught not by how things look or behave but by the fact that they simply are, when their presence explodes or bursts with the question: “What’s the point of my/you/it being here at all?”

With that question in mind, I want now to recapitulate various stages in my own engagement with Jung-on-alchemy. What I hope to do is to make the word metaphysics more familiar to Jungians by relating it to dream material. I want to suggest that the dangerous, disreputable, psychotic, depressive, aspects of alchemy can introduce us to metaphysics, to a serious respect for Being, by raising certain questions about the nature of time.


I start with a dream, a dream of ‘aluminium in the bug’. It dates from 1955.

I am in the company of people who are all in some way tainted, rotten. One man especially is very short of money, and in an attempt to raise cash, he involves everyone he knows in a lying, false, dishonourable and utterly inhuman relationship. On a deeper level these people are Frenchmen, and this man exploits some ‘thin’’ they have all seen during the ‘time of horror’, which I associate with the war, the German occupation and the concentration camps. I am now watching on a film. This peculiarly poisonous man persuades these foolish rotten people that in their experience of horror, each one of them had seen the only true value. So they return, feeling under the compulsion of some religious pressure, to a rocky hilltop which is significant to them because it is shaped like the beast of the horror that they once saw. When they are all collected there, there comes the hideous apocalyptic end of the world. First all the monsters of the prehistoric primeval swamps before man had evolved pour over the hilltop. Then in hideous power of wind and fire and cold black ferocity the Beast itself, the Apocalyptic Beast tears raging across the screen. I am now partly lying on the ground in the scene on the screen, cowering in terror. Everywhere there is shrieking, the terror and obscene fear of men after the hideousness of atomic war, blaspheming in their irreligious terror. French sailors pour over the darkened plain yelling in their terror that there is ‘aluminium in the bug’ – as if their bodies were involved in chemical change by which they were becoming one with the metals of the earth. As partly an observer of this scene of utter physical desolation and human bereavement I feel beside my horror, that the only hope is to believe in God, however painful, Who comprehends within the Godhead both the Beast and humanity.

That was one of a number of dreams I had round about the age of thirty, which confused metals, and sometimes chemical elements, with viruses and other low forms of biological life. Dreams like these seemed to talk a language which predated the distinction between inorganic and organic chemistry which chemists began to make towards the end of the 18th century. They were frightening dreams, often touched by what I would today call a hint of psychosis. They combined a sense of history with the inventiveness of a science fiction writer. When I talk about ‘soul stuff’ in relation to alchemy, I have dreams like this in mind. Such soul stuff can feel very mad, and it can also seem to be telling a story that matters.

Working on dreams like this within the framework of analysis drew me towards an interest in body as well as in psyche. This emphasis on body as much as on psyche is something which I have found difficult to accommodate within the Jungian tradition. One of my motives in writing this paper is to try and make room for it.

Development of an interest in body was a gradual process which I only began to put into words after twelve or fifteen years. It seemed that if I were dreaming about the interaction of the human psyche with the inorganic, mineral world, the place where that interaction had to prove itself was the body. Not just my own personal body, but other peoples’ bodies too, our bodies, and beyond ‘us’ a wider and more comprehensive experience of what I now call ‘the social body’, that nexus of bodily interdependence to which money, sexuality, eating, drinking, excretion, and our invention and use of machines, all bear witness.

My first attempts to say something in public about this nexus of interdependence was through the theme of money. In 1967 I read a paper to the Jung Club on Money and Power, which was followed in 1969 by a lecture on Man, Woman and Money given to The Progressive League. In both these papers I found myself arguing for the importance of the work of Karl Marx for an understanding of the metaphysical role of money in the world today. Gradually I was realising that for me there were vital links between Marx on money and Jung on alchemy.

This came to a head in a paper I read to the Jung Club in 1974, which is published in the volume In the Wake of Jung. I called it: Jung and Marx: Alchemy, Christianity and the Work Against Nature. It was while working on this paper that the conviction began to constellate within me that I was dealing not so much in psychology as in the history of metaphysics.

The point round which this constellation took place was the word ‘virgin’. It happened something like this.

Comparing Marx’s historical analysis of the development of capital with the alchemists’ experience of spirit and matter in conjugation I found myself making a distinction between nature as virgin, and nature as used for a purpose outside itself. Between the two there was need for some kind of sacrifice. How that sacrifice could be understood became a focus for intense reflection. My interest in sex, in money, in worship, fed into this common nucleus of feeling.

As I immersed myself in this, trying to draw out of it some conclusion, something happened which I certainly had not expected, and which I was not aware of having ‘got’ from Jung. It was as if the adjective virgin personified itself, and then divided into two. Christian teaching about the mother of Christ, Marxist teaching on the alienation of human nature from nature, psychoanalytic awareness of an untouched (and possibly untouchable) ‘itness’ within myself, came together in my reading of Jung on alchemy to produce this doubling of a virgin figure.

On the one hand, we had the well known Christian celebration of Mary’s “be it unto me according to thy word”, which opened the way for the maker into the body of the made. This was the way to be followed sixteen hundred years later by the experimental sciences as they learned the secrets of nature. On the other hand, we had the relatively unknown figure of an alchemical virgin who resisted and questioned the visiting angel, in order herself better to enquire into the transformation of metals. Between the Yes of the Christian virgin, and the No of the alchemical virgin, so it seemed to me, we had an unwritten history of science and religion, of which Marxism was perhaps a confused, inspired and in some ways disastrous, first draft.

This doubling of the figure of the virgin has been a central theme for reflection in the last twelve years or so. In one direction it points me towards the likelihood of something like a ‘psychotic anima’ in my family of origin. In another direction it points me towards the possibility of some hard-to-imagine metaphysical splitting process within our human experience of curiosity.

The first stimulus to reflection came from colleagues. After my paper was first published in Harvest 1975, I was asked if I could describe clinically what I had in mind in comparing Jung on alchemy with Marx. I responded with a paper on Alchemy, Marx and the Clinical Imagination, which I gave at the 1977 Jungian congress in Rome.

In this paper I took a dream of a patient, a woman in her early fifties who worked with me over a period of four years. This dream compared a religious community with a political commune. I compared the dream with a 17th century alchemical text from Philalethes’ Introitus Apertus (a text which has the advantage of being discussed both by Jung, in chapter III para 186 of Mysterium Coniunctionis, and also by John Trinick in his book The Fired Tried Stone – Stuart & Watkins, 1967).

I used this comparison to reflect on my patient’s experience of what was inside and outside her body as being at times interchangeable. This was particularly evident in what kept happening to her through that second ‘body’, her motor car. It was as if her ability to respond to what was inside her and what was outside her was confused, deliberately confused. In order to deal with questions of money and sexuality as they came up in her life we had to get into that deliberate confusion.

Working on this paper, I found that Marx’s theory of alienation, and alchemical descriptions of conjugal warfare between spirit and matter, were more apt in describing my patient’s experience than the kind of ‘object relations’ theory which some of my colleagues might have preferred. They were more apt because they seemed to do justice to social and historical as well as to personal realities. Reflecting on the implications of this moved me a decisive step further in my engagement with the metaphysics of alchemy.

This decisive step was to recognise the importance for metaphysics of The Two Bodies.

I take this term from the work of the social anthropologist Mary Douglas. It is a chapter heading in her book Natural Symbols. In that chapter she argues that while psychoanalysis may be very much to the point in its approach to the symbolism of the personal body, it is largely content to ignore the symbolism of the social body. She insists that to understand our symbolising activities we need both.

The physical body can have universal meaning only as a system which responds to the social system, expressing it as a system. What it symbolises naturally is the relation of parts of an organism to the whole. Natural symbols can express the relation of an individual to his society at that general systemic level. The two bodies are the self and society: sometimes they are, so near as to be almost merged: sometimes they are far apart. The tension between them allows the elaboration of meanings.

I refer to this theme of the Two Bodies at various points in my paper in Harvest 1987. I am arguing now that if we are to place Jung’s interest in alchemy in its historical setting we have to place it within that tension between the Two Bodies. Between microcosm and macrocosm we have to allow for society. We have to learn to relate what Jung called the collective unconscious to what Mary Douglas is calling the social body, and to do that we are going to have to research (among other things) the history of metaphysics. Alchemical symbolism helps clinically in the elaboration of meaning when it is invoked to sustain and articulate and develop the tension between the personal and the social body. That is what I am trying to do in this paper. It is in that tension that I hope to find others able to help me with the metaphysical contradictoriness of the Yes and No of the Christian and alchemical virgin.

But to do something with metaphysical contradictoriness we have to get the feeling right. Metaphysical contradictoriness is not just a matter for debate among philosophers. It is about splitting of a special kind, cosmogonic splitting. To approach splitting of this kind with the right feeling we need to imagine a fracturing of the air we breathe, a distortion of the light by which we see, a rupture in the rhythm of our breathing, a breaking of the word which makes human communication possible. In the beginning was the word, and the word was broken.

I have come to believe that one place where we may find both the feeling and the imagination necessary for such an approach is in our experience of the psychotic in our own nature.

Various influences have moved me over the last ten years to look again at my own psychotic potential. I have tried to reflect on these in various papers given to the Jung Club. I will refer to two of them. One has been printed, the other not.

The first from 1983, and had the title: Riddley Walker and Greenham Common: Further Thoughts on Alchemy, Christianity and the Work Against Nature. This paper was released in me by reading Russell Hoban’s novel Riddley Walker. Like nothing else I had ever read, this extraordinary book spoke the language of my alchemical dreaming. For me, it made possible public owning of material which I had previously felt to be too crazy to share with others.

Riddley Walker is a story about life two thousand years after a nuclear war. If we follow one line of argument, the release of nuclear energy can be seen as achieving the alchemists’ goal for the transformation of matter. If that is so, then Riddley Walker is through and through alchemical.

It is about the future. But it is also about a past that has been forgotten. This movement of imagination between prophecy and memory spoke into my sense of some unwritten history of which we are part. It encouraged me in the belief that my story, our story, might make more sense within the context of that unwritten history.

The paper which Riddley Walker enabled me to write was a mixture of autobiography and historical fiction, woven round a work of what Jung calls active imagination which I had done nearly forty years earlier when I was myself in danger of breaking up. It had two themes. The first was the Christian Eucharist, and how that cannibalistic eating of flesh and blood may have contributed to the metaphysical origins of experimental science. The second was about apocalypse, and how Christian concern for the relation between time and eternity may have contributed to what A.N.Whitehead called the invention of the method of invention.

Among my colleagues, the paper had a mixed reception. One said she thought I was committing professional suicide. Another, famous for never writing letters, wrote to say he was proud to be published together in the same Journal. But the historians on whom I tried it were more sure. They could make no sense of it. In a friendly letter, one of my former Oxford tutors, whom I had quoted, wrote’:

I confess to being rather bewildered by what I read: ‘crazy’ it was not; but certainly bewildering – chiefly, I suppose, because you start with a foundation of experience, which (so far as I can see) – vivid though they are – tell us nothing about the past experiences of the human race – or at least nothing on which we can build.

Though I was deeply disappointed by his reaction, I have to admit that it was understandable. Certainly it is of a kind that is shared by most of the historians of science who have commented on Jung’s work on alchemy. Those of us who have found meaning for ourselves in that work must accept that a heavy burden of persuasion and proof lies with us if it is to become more widely studied as relevant to the present experience of the human race.

Looking back now on my Riddley Walker paper, and the responses to it and the effect of those responses on me, it seems to have moved me towards owning the need for a more comprehensive ‘placement’ of my psychotic potential. On the one hand, I am seized with something between hunger and reverence for history. On the other, I am afflicted with metaphysical scepticism about time. Between the two I have always had difficulty in feeling what is real.

The second attempt to research and place my psychotic potential to which I want to refer was in a talk I gave at the Jung Club last year, at a day conference on History and Holocaust, which I shared with Wolfgang Giegerich from Stuttgart. I called my talk: How Can Feeling Respond to Images of Annihilation? In it, I was trying to reflect with feeling drawn from my own experience, both on the Nazi German near annihilation of European Jewry and on our present fears of genocide through nuclear war. This led me to include reference to one of the central themes of alchemy, the sacred marriage, and to say something about how for me this has been inextricably involved with the taking of pleasure in pain.

I began this with reference to a dream. It dates from 1962, and must have come within weeks of my first taking communion within the christian church. It began with scenes set in some city like the London of George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty Four. This was related to the Liverpool of my childhood, and to the cathedral which was being built there in the 1930’s, also to my father’s recent death. It then continued:

There are two young women, the feminine counterparts of the Orwellian ‘proles’ of the earlier sequence. One of them has children, but because in some way she is totally unable to accept the shadow side of marriage, its destructiveness, its metaphysical collapse as a result of the dissolution of the incestuous marriage between Christ and Church which is the archetype of human marriage, therefore she must destroy her children. She has no understanding, and therefore relies on her companion, who is literal minded and idolatrous, to tell her how to react to this uncomprehended situation. This second girl counsels the revolting cooking of her children. Deep down in a vastly deep hole in the earth I came upon them by a glass-fronted stove, with the children inside heated almost to their destruction. The mother seems a bit distraught and uncertain of what she is doing, nothing more. But the other woman is diabolically certain of what she is doing. I feel the unbearable pain of the tiny bodies. I am trying to persuade the mother that she must confess all. This means trying to persuade her to pour out to her father confessor how totally destructive her experience of marriage is: her vision that marriage is not one of the essential foundations of society but a centre from which the Spirit of Destruction works its demonic power on men and women as individuals and as members of society.

That is the kind of thing I mean by soul stuff. However psychotic a dream like that may be, it is not one you forget easily. In relation to alchemy it has coloured everything I read on retorts and ovens, the homunculus, or the sacred marriage. But what I have to say about it here has to do with The Two Bodies.

One of the most powerful links between the personal and the social body is the whole nexus of transaction between male and female. How we understand marriage, what we expect of marriage, is influenced by, and in turn influences, our understanding of society. If there is something wrong with one, there is something wrong with the other. Much of Jung’s writing on the sacred marriage in his alchemical volumes appears to assume a harmonious archetype of marriage. This is the model of reconciliation to which the alchemists’ intercourse with the mineral world aspires. But if our experience of marriage at a transcendent level includes deliberate pain and the operation of some kind of spirit of destruction, how does this affect our understanding and expectation of the work against nature?

What I want to suggest is this. We have grown familiar over the last few decades with the idea that ecology and sexual behaviour are intimately related. What are we going to do about this relationship? How does it touch us? Is it just a question of management, of social engineering, or does it affect us in quite different ways, ways both here and beyond which we rightly call metaphysical? I suggest that alchemy is about the history of that question, one chapter in the history of the metaphysical relationship between the Two Bodies, and that it may bear witness to experience which is more cruel than we can imagine.

Unless … unless we are more willing to own our private cruelties, and to bring such owning into the dialogue between the Two Bodies, however ridiculous, nasty and perverse it may make us appear.

The second passage from my History and Holocaust paper takes up this ‘unless’. I was reflecting on the insane cruelty in that dream, and relating it to my own experience of taking pleasure in pain. This returned me to my theme of the two virgins, and of the place of the Christian Annunciation in the history of metaphysics.

I spoke about a man with a taste for sadomasochism. He lived with a woman whose inclinations complemented his own. He was fortunate in being able to develop and explore his pleasure in receiving pain within a relationship where humour, affection, even perhaps love, allowed for shared reflection on what they did together. In what he told me I was struck by how extensively religious language was used in their rituals of domination and submission.

I remembered in particular a session in which my patient described to me an exchange of looks between him and the woman during one of their rituals. He was kneeling at her feet, waiting in a state of intense sexual excitement, to be whipped. She ordered him to look her in the eyes. He described what then happened as an extraordinary opening of some imprisonment within him. He said that as their gazes held each other, it was ‘as if desire stood still in turning on itself’. In one attempt to amplify the moment he compared it to the old image of the arrow and the bowstring. He said that it was as if an arrow, shot from the taut, stretched, bow was caught in midflight and then held still, still in flight, by the tension from which it sprang. In another, he described it as like what a flower must feel when it opens for the first time.

Now strange things happen in the counter-transference. My work with this man was touching me in places which I came to feel I had never explored properly in my own analysis. I had real difficulty in owning my projections into what he brought me, so that I was dealing with them myself and not relying on him to help me. What helped steady me in reflection on my countertransference was all the work I had done a few years before on the two virgins.

I found myself thinking of that look which he described so vividly and to which he returned again and again, and re-imagining it in ways that allowed me to work on my own projections. I found myself imagining it in relation to the extraordinary spatial vibration achieved in some of the great paintings of the Annunciation between the figures of Mary and the angel Gabriel. And then later, as weeks and months passed, I came to imagine another picture, in which the

Christian Mary and the alchemical Isis might face each other, their gazes meeting in the space between the Yes and the No as they tell of their different response to the desire present in that visitation: on one side Mary’s “be it unto me according to Thy word”, on the other, the alchemical Isis with her determination to inquire further into the transformation of metals.

And I began to wonder, thinking of my analysis, and of the desire between myself and mother and father and the space between them, whether I had once been present at such an exchange of Yes and No. If I had, what had I made of the metaphysical excitement of it, and how had that excitement influenced not only my sexuality but also perhaps my reading of history?

Such wondering is now at the heart of my interest in Jung’s work on alchemy. When I read the introduction to Psychology and Alchemy, or the more historical parts of Aion and Mysterium Coniunctionis, I am wondering whether there was in Jung’s experience anything comparable to my oscillation between those two contrasting moments of Annunciation. And when I consider Jung’s rediscovery of alchemy within the wider context of the history of the Two Bodies, I wonder about the place of the Annunciation in the future of our world. The Annunciation is a turning point in human history. It marks the transition between the Old and the New Testaments, the change over from BC to AD, the separation of Christian from Jew. But what has it done to the time of the inhuman world, the animal and vegetable and mineral world that has no conception of the terror, the excitement, or the consolation, of history?

Curiosity and Respect for Being

This autobiographical material should give some idea of the personal context within which my interest in Jung-on-alchemy has developed. It is evident that I have not been moved to intimations of wholeness or of the unus mundus. The emphasis has been rather on depression, more or less denied, and on the dangers of delusional psychosis and idealised omnipotence. Such is the soul stuff which has interested me in alchemy. It is also, so I believe, soul stuff of a kind that can contribute to recovery of respect for Being.

I want to suggest how this may come about by looking at some connections between curiosity and the metaphysics of time. Jung’s understanding of time in his psychology of alchemy, and the way he links it with the idea of projection, is my starting point.

Jung believed that the presence of alchemical themes in the dreams of modem people is evidence of a timed timelessness at work in the world. He talked of this in terms of projection, synchronicity and the collective unconscious. The picture of time which we get from his works has two emphases. One is like a great ocean, a reservoir, vibrating with the partially realised energy of the archetypes. The other is of impingement and constellation, the impact of the significant occasion, an impact which has a quality to it which overrides our distinction of accident and cause.

Between the two, the phenomenon of projection is responsible for the connective tissue of our being-in-the-world.

The problem for me, and for many others, in understanding this picture is how to relate this timeless ocean and this constellating impingement to our experience of time as flow, whether that flow be linear or circular.

I have come to agree with those historians of science who judge Jung’s work on alchemy to be in a critical sense un-, or anti-, historical. They say that he does not pay enough attention to changes that occurred over the centuries, or to differences between Chinese, Middle Eastern, and European alchemy. I think this criticism is justified, and that those of us who think of ourselves as followers of Jung should take it to heart and to mind.

But I also think that Jung is on to some truth about time which the historians seem to have forgotten. I prefer to talk about this not so much in terms of synchronicity or of the collective unconscious, but rather in language I have learned in the tension between the Two Bodies, the kind of tension I have aired in the more autobiographical part of this paper.

The easiest way into this language is through music. We have to be able to think of time as both independent of us and yet also of our making, in the way that musicians do. Time has an objective existence independent of us, into which we are thrown and to which we have to adapt. But it also depends, absolutely, on us. It is of our making. This is the paradox in which what I call metaphysical scepticism about time is grounded, the paradox which pulled so sharply at my son’s heart strings as he imagined the brevity of a butterfly’s existence. There is no point to time unless we have a say in its making. But how can that be?

Historians for whom a metaphysics of time is nonsense are deeply suspicious of any such musical approach to the making and keeping of time. For them, it is important that time be objective to their own researches. The objectivity of time is what guarantees their discipline.

But there are traditions within the study of history which do allow for belief in time as not only given to us, but also as something in whose making we participate. The Biblical and Marxist approaches are examples of this. I think that Jung’s work on alchemy belongs with those traditions. It just doesn’t make sense unless we can entertain belief that time is something we make as well as something we are given. I want to translate Jung’s talk of the timelessness of the collective unconscious, of synchronicity, of participation mystique, into the language of that belief in time as made by us as well as given to us. I sum it up in the sentence: Time is given into our keeping.

If we are to take account of the kind of personal experience I have been describing, however, we will have to allow that belief a reach which is lacking in the Biblical and Marxist traditions. It has to be able to take in evidence which neither of those traditions accepts. We have to make room for connections between past and future of which at present we can only dream. Waking, they make no sense at all.

In October 1986 Mary Warnock reviewed various books on the future of nuclear energy in The Times Literary Supplement. The review was titled: ‘The Future since Chernobyl’. In it, she had this sentence:

We have to think about what is good or bad for a future infinitely more remote from ourselves than any we have been accustomed to consider.

Jung’s psychology of alchemy is as much about that future as it is about the past. In working with it we are learning responsibility for times which are infinitely remote. Yet, as the examples I have given show, they are as close to us as death and sexuality.

In working with the kind of material I have described, it seems to me as if three different ‘time scales’ overlap. Or, in order to emphasise better the participatory, musical quality of time, we should perhaps better speak of ‘timings’ rather than ‘time scales’. There is the timing of my personal life story. There is the timing of history. And there is the timing of evolution.

I wonder whether psychoanalytic argument about dream interpretation isn’t much more about the problem of how these three timings relate to one another than we have yet realised. If we think in terms of timescales, we tend to want to reduce all three to one homogeneous line, with personal life time as a barely visible segment of historical time, which in its turn is a barely visible segment of evolutionary time. If we are thinking in terms of participatory, musical time, we experience them as acting upon one another. This acting-upon-one-another of personal, historical and evolutionary timing has a quality to it which is somewhere between a beat and a rub. Sometimes this beat, this rubbing, can be soothing, infinitely comforting, like the notes of some great organ or a particularly sensuous massage. Sometimes it can be more like some intolerably painful oscillation, a state of agitation wholly without rhythm in which every appointment is always a disappointment.

If we are to relate Jung’s work on alchemy to the future of science we are going to have to make room for that acting-upon-one-another of personal, historical and evolutionary timing. For instance: the alchemists believed they could speed up the transformation of metals being incubated within the earth, and prolong the lives of mortals. It has been said that ‘one important strand linking alchemy to modern technology is woven out of the human ability to speed up the time of mineral change’. Mary Warnock warns us that we must take responsibility for times which may seem infinitely remote. How do we get a sense of our participatory responsibility for evolutionary timing into our understanding of history so that how we behave now owns such responsibility?

This is where I want to introduce curiosity into my argument. The nature of scientific curiosity is going to have to change. It is going to have to own an interest in time creation.

One economic and political response to the problems touched on by Mary Warnock in her review is to plan for what is called sustainable growth. With more or less reservation, it is accepted that we must have growth. But growth must be subordinated to a respect for the environment. It must allow for the renewal of the resources on which it feeds.

I believe that alongside sustainable growth we should also be thinking and talking about sustainable curiosity. If it is to be sustainable, scientific curiosity has to allow for the renewal of the resources on which it feeds. It is going to have to include within its own self-understanding respect for Being.

To do so, it must make room for all kinds of curiosity about time. It has to listen to evidence present in the tension between the Two Bodies that time is as much human project as natural phenomenon. Understanding science requires that we try to understand that project. Without such understanding, the institutionalised experimental curiosity of modern science (what Whitehead called so well ‘the invention of the method of invention’) will exhaust the resources on which it feeds. With it, it may find rest in a more comprehensive ability to ‘let Be’.

Jung’s work on alchemy contributes to such understanding. The key idea that we Jungians have to take on board is that time is itself a project. In this paper I am trying to illustrate some implications of this from my personal material.

The alchemical Isis, whom I have placed opposite the Christian Mary, was curious as to the preparation of metals, and therefore resisted the advances of the angel. Mary was accepting. She allowed for curiosity of an altogether different kind, curiosity that opened the way for the maker into the body of the made. Many of my alchemical dreams seem to be about a kind of fusion or collapse of the difference between those two positions. The result of this collapse (perhaps short circuit is a better analogy) is that curiosity becomes devouring. Faced with this devouring curiosity my dreaming wakes me in terror.

I have come to associate this devouring curiosity and the accompanying terror with ecologists’ warnings as to the effects of scientific exploitation of our environment. The sense they can give us of being caught in a process, or possessed by a spirit, which is destroying our habitat, corresponds with the kind of panic in which I have woken from nightmares like the two I have told. But, because of the nature of my material, I have also come to wonder whether this devouring curiosity is in some way the result of the Annunciation. Has the Annunciation exposed the animal, vegetable, mineral worlds to curiosity of a kind for which we are now beginning, perhaps too late, to feel responsible?

This is where my interest in Jung-on-alchemy is now located. I think that Jung’s alchemical books can be read as part of an overall shift in our understanding of the curiosity which links the human and the inhuman worlds. They are about biochemical participation in the sort of time keeping which contains and sustains curiosity within respect for Being.

My own material is a particular and limited illustration of how such participation works. One of its major themes is of our involvement in a metaphysical linking between sexuality and time.

Consider the idea of incest as it is used in Jung’s writing about the coniunctio or sacred marriage, and the significantly different use of the idea in the Freudian tradition. Most thinking about incest is within a context that assumes time as ‘just there’. Parent-child incest is then something that takes place between the generations as they exist strung out on a linear chronology. Such incest devours time. It swallows up the future.

But incest as wish can also be understood as a project. It projects, or intends, synchronisation of linear and circular experience of time. This is particularly true of brother-sister incest of the kind Jung writes about so extensively. Incest of this sort can be seen as generating time rather than devouring it.

Now if we are open to the idea of time as given into our keeping this synchronising project or intent of incest can lead to a more comprehensive and more demanding experience of sexuality and time as sharing some kind of common metaphysical ground and direction. I think that is what that dream of mine about Christ and the Church was about. But to analyse it, to make it real, to do something with it, we need the tension between the Two Bodies. Time as within, and of, our generation is something we suffer and something we enjoy. There is a breaking point, and there is celebration. For the two to come together we need the company of others in owning as much as possible of what is going on in the tension between the Two Bodies.

Looking back over forty years of dreaming, I would say that that is what my alchemical material has been about. Trying to make sense of it is not so lonely as it once was, though it can still seem pretty hopeless. Between those who can talk easily, oh so easily, of the timelessness of the collective unconscious, and those for whom time raises no metaphysical questioning, it can seem extremely unlikely that it will ever be possible to join with others in social celebration of time as within, and of, our generation. Yet I believe, with a conviction that is growing to meet me from out of the root of my dying, that the time for such celebration is already set, ready for us to pick up, in the tension between the Two Bodies.

To be ready for it, we have to get the feeling right. Owning the creation of time in the tension between personal and social experience is not something abstract or mathematical. That is not the kind of metaphysics I am asking for. Nor is it even something musical, in spite of the use I have made of the musical analogy. It involves us together in hope that is not of this world. It involves us together in fear that is not of this world. It is energised by activity we call worship and prayer. And that is where I have a problem which I cannot work out alone.

Worship and prayer have a history. They are subject to time even as they celebrate time’s creation. In the history of our culture, worship and prayer in the tension between the Two Bodies have been inspired by the Bible. The guardians of the Biblical traditions have been responsible for our personal and social hold on time-creation, and for its hold on us. As we have repudiated those traditions (or as they have failed us), that hold has gone slack. It has become easy (facile) for whole generations to grow up believing that time can be taken for granted, that there is really and truly nothing we have to do to ensure it.

The feeling that I have had to take on board in grappling with my alchemical dreams is that we have lost our key to time creation. To recover it, I need the help of others in owning to feelings of panic, annihilation, and omnipotence, which at present can find no expression in which the social and the personal come together.

My dreaming suggests to me that this will require two movements of the heart and mind and spirit. One movement must come from within the Biblical traditions (I am thinking of Jew and Christian in particular, and of the absolute terror which the 20th century has shown to be at stake between them) to own the deeply depressive sense of historical failure.

I doubt if it is possible to exaggerate the depth and influence of this ‘depressive position’ within our culture. An appointment was made which has not been kept. Our confidence in our ability to keep time has been disappointed where it hurts most, in the well-springs of worship and prayer. How are we to comprehend that disappointment?

I see such comprehension coming out of a second movement of heart and mind and spirit. I have described it as the rubbing or beating of personal and historical and evolutionary timing against each other. That, it seems to me, is what much of our dreaming is about. We are trying to remember what time being given into our keeping is like.

But there is a problem of feeling involved in this remembering which is in danger of splitting us irreconcilably. Even as we acknowledge the deeply depressive failure of the Biblical traditions we have also to acknowledge that the Bible has been right to insist on a metaphysical link between time and sexuality. Can we hold those two truths together?

That is a feeling problem with which I need the help of others. Our history is in travail with time. The direction and intent of curiosity is changing. It is like living along the line of some geological fault. What is splitting us is an overall realignment in our understanding of the curiosity which links the human and the inhuman world. We are having to allow for this splitting in order to make room for biochemical participation in time keeping. Without such participation, curiosity of the kind we have come to rely on in the last four hundred years will not be sustainable.

The depressive, psychotic, soul stuff which draws some of us to alchemy tells of splitting, disintegration, the decomposition of personality. It tells also of attempts to imagine biochemical participation in time keeping. Between the two I have despaired of finding any common story. Jung encourages me to go on being curious as to how the two may hold together. There is a suggestion (I can put it no stronger) that if we can bear it they may hold together in work that is against nature yet respectful of Being.


At the beginning of this paper I wrote that the one abiding thought I wanted to leave with the reader is that Jung’s work on alchemy can contribute to a kind of scientific curiosity which is sustainable rather than self consuming.

I hope my autobiographical approach has put some flesh and blood on that statement. I want to emphasise again how much this approach of mine depends on two kinds of energy. First, the tension between the Two Bodies, the symbolising energy of the social body as mediating, confusing and translating between what an alchemist would have called the microcosm and the macrocosm. Second, energy which is coincident with metaphysical scepticism about time, and with the feeling (worship and prayer) which sustains such scepticism.

To bring those two kinds of energy together we need more than psychology. We need a history of metaphysics which is also a history of the social body. That is the context within which I would place what Jung says about projection and participation mystique in his alchemical books.

The link with clinical practice (as I argued in my Spring 1975 paper, now included in my The Psychology of Carl Jung, Edwin Mellen Press, 1992) is given in the word ‘presence’. We need to watch for the word presence when it is applied to persons, objects, places. We need to watch for experience in which the world comes to meet us, turns its countenance upon us, makes itself apparent to us. These are the experiences which we need to share, to foster, to study, if psychological curiosity is to contribute to respect for Being.

Psychoanalytic study of projection has a lot to say about experiences of this kind. But to relate this to what Jung says about projection in alchemy psychoanalytic research must be brought into feeling contact with the history of metaphysics. I believe that feeling contact of this kind could help change the direction and intention of scientific curiosity. But to achieve it we will have to be asking questions about time and its creation which are not made explicit within psychoanalysis, and which do not seem to have meant much for Jung either.

Sacred Hunger: Exponential Growth and the Bible

(Paper read to the Guild of Pastoral Psychology, May 1994)


Christian interpretation of the Bible speaks of three theologies: the theology of creation, the theology of incarnation, and the theology of redemption: how God made the world, how He became incarnate in the world, and how He saved the world. I believe these three theologies are at work in modern science and technology and in the economic system which we call capitalism. Our modern world is kept going by what the philosopher Whitehead called (in 1925) “the invention of the method of invention”. The power of this method, its resourcefulness, its ruthlessness, and its hold on us, come from the three christian theologies. But it works beyond their control. A power has been released into the world by Christianity which Christianity cannot contain.

That is the belief or story which I have tried to tell on various occasions over the last twenty years. I return to it this morning through the word hunger. I want to look at this power which has escaped from christian control as an accelerating hunger, a hunger that is not only in time, but also for and of time. It is consuming us and it is running away with us. The consuming and the running away belong together. The running away is consuming, and the consuming is running away. An accelerating hunger.

That is what my talk is about. But now a word also about the feeling tone of what I am going to be saying. It is pessimistic. If I am to be heard saying what I have to say, that pessimism has to be admitted. I think this accelerating hunger has taken such hold of our world and of us that we have to expect catastrophe. The twentieth century has had and continues to have its catastrophes. They will continue, and they will get worse.

But people will survive, and some sort of world order will survive. Even though it is now in a sense too late, it is nevertheless worth trying to understand what we are caught in. Because we will be able to respond to catastrophe. The response is indeed already in the making. There is still a world to play for. Our response to catastrophe can be more or less effective, more or less humane, more or less cruel. Present understanding will make a difference to future catastrophe.

So my feeling tone has to try and combine a deep pessimism, a convinced pessimism, with a sureness that it is still worth trying.

Sacred Hunger and Exponential Growth

Sacred Hunger is the title of Barry Unsworth’s recent novel about the slave trade out of Liverpool in the eighteenth century. People were beginning to realise that the economy of their world was being driven by a new force. The profit motive was establishing itself in the market place, in warfare, and in the minds of men, as the driving motor of what we later came to call capitalism. They called it, or some of them did, Sacred Hunger.

A more recent example of such hunger is given in this book Beyond the Limits: Global Collapse or a Sustainable Future. Some of you may remember the previous book from the same authors, commissioned in 1972 by what was called the Club of Rome. It was called The Limits to Growth, and argued then that if growth trends in population, consumption, use of resources and generation of waste, continued unchanged, the limits to physical growth on the planet would be reached within a hundred years. In their new book, written twenty years later, they produce their evidence to show that the world has already overshot some of its limits and that, if present trends continue, we face the virtually certain prospect of a global collapse, perhaps within the lifetimes of children alive today.

Here is one example of Sacred Hunger from their book.

Ecologist Paul Ehrlich once expressed surprise to a Japanese journalist that the Japanese whaling industry would exterminate the very source of its wealth. The journalist replied, ‘You are thinking of the whaling industry as an organisation that is interested in maintaining whales; actually it is better viewed as a huge quantity of [financial] capital attempting to earn the highest possible return. If it can exterminate whales in ten years and make a 15% profit, but it could only make a 10% profit with a sustainable harvest, then it will exterminate them in ten years. After that the money will be moved to exterminate some other resource’.

It is the hunger of that capital I want us to think about.

Exponential Growth is the progression 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128 etc. To emphasise the acceleration involved, the authors of Beyond the Limits illustrate it like this:

Take a piece of paper and fold it in half. You’ve just doubled its thickness. Fold it in half again to make it 4 times its original thickness. Assuming you could go on folding the paper like that for a total of 40 times, how thick do you think it would get to be? Less than a foot? Between a foot and 10 feet? Between 10 feet and a mile? In fact you could not fold a paper 40 times, but if somehow its thickness could be doubled 40 times over, it would make a pile of paper high enough to reach from the earth to the moon.

Two pages later they have another illustration which relates acceleration to a sense of time running out, to a sense of it being already too late.

A French riddle for children illustrates another aspect of exponential growth – the apparent suddenness with which an exponentially growing quantity approaches a fixed limit. Suppose you own a pond on which a water lily is growing. The lily plant doubles in size each day. If the plant were allowed to grow unchecked, it would completely cover the pond in 30 days, choking off the other forms of life in the water. For a long time the lily plant seems small, so you decide not to worry about it until it covers half the pond. On what day will that be? On the twenty ninth day. You have just one day to act to save your pond.

That is the kind of growth which both feeds and generates an accelerating hunger. That is the kind of growth which we do not worry about until it is too late.

Now I want to give an example of how technology contributes to this kind of growth. This is a commonplace in the financial markets of the world, and in the boardrooms of our great companies. Here it is spelled out for us crisply in the letter columns of The Independent on the 6th of January this year. The writer is Gus Fischer, chief executive of News International.

Your leading article (5 January) implies that Rupert Murdoch and News International have been inhibiting factors on the development of the New Media Age. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The deregulation now being considered by Government has been advocated by Rupert Murdoch and News International for many years, for all the reasons outlined in your leading article. The difference is that he and News International did not hang around waiting for the deregulatory sunrise. Contrary to your leading article, though, we did not exploit a ‘loophole in the law’. We simply realised that technology had moved ahead faster than regulation; that it had become possible, using medium-powered satellites, to cover the same ground as that covered by the officially endorsed high powered satellites…. The tentative window of opportunity offered by the Broadcasting Act was not an accident. The Government wanted to see if non-domestic satellite would work. Rupert Murdoch was the only person with guts enough to make it happen.

“We simply realised that technology had moved ahead faster…”

“Rupert Murdoch was the only person with guts enough to make it happen…” – the power of technology to move ahead faster, and the power lodged in the guts of men like Mr Murdoch, the self-winding up of science and the appetite of capital: what is it that links the two? Is it too far fetched to look for the answer in theologies of creation, incarnation, and redemption?

The Eucharist – an overdetermined historical event

In my twenties and early thirties I dreamt often of the eating of flesh. Sometimes the flesh was human, mine and others. Sometimes it was animal. Sometimes it was good to eat. Sometimes it was horrible, so disgusting as to wake me in nightmare. The eaters of the flesh were human, animal, vegetable, viral. The eating was sometimes sexual. And the dreams involved mathematics, politics, history, machines, money, so that flesh and its eating extended beyond the personal body into the constitution of the world in which our bodies make their living.

These dreams were influential in moving me towards christian baptism and confirmation. I wanted to do something public about them. I could not keep them to myself. I needed to share them with others. Looking around me I began wondering whether the christian Eucharist might prove to be such a sharing. Whether I believed christian teaching about the Eucharist did not seem to matter. My godfather was very concerned about that, I remember. But for me what mattered was to find some way of waking up to, of sharing with others, of making public, experience that was frightening, powerful, exhausting, charged with excitement both personal and historical.

Over thirty years of sharing in the Eucharist has led to no enlightenment as to the meaning of those dreams. Thickening is a better word to describe what has happened. The symbolism, the affect, carried by the eating and drinking has thickened, become more dense, heavy, charged. To use a psychoanalytic word, the Eucharist for me is overdetermined. It carries more than it says. There are times when the words used to tell what we are doing seem to fit. But more often they say nothing about my experience and occasionally actually empty it of meaning. But the doing remains. The doing is effective even if I do not understand of what. The doing is communion, communion with a power that is outside as well as inside the church.

In 1983 I tried to say something about my overdetermined experience of the Eucharist in my talk on Riddley Walker and Greenham Common, and later in 1988 in a paper on Alchemy and Psychosis: Curiosity and the Metaphysics of Time. Since then that sense of being overdetermined has given way to a new kind of movement of thought and feeling. The movement is about hunger and effective suffering.

So I shall talk now about three recent books which have helped me feel and think more comprehensively about the hunger of cannibalism and its significance for us today.

Three books

The three books I have here followed on from each other. One referred on to the next. The first was Peter Brown’s The Body and Society: Men, Women and Sexual Renunciation in Early Christianity. Many of you will know it. The publishers describe it as examining the practice of permanent sexual renunciation that developed among the early Christians, and as an evocation of an era and a contribution to our understanding of sexuality and the family in the ancient world. But there is as much about hunger as about sexual renunciation in the book, and the passage which led me onto to my second book came on p.218.

Peter Brown is describing Egypt in the fourth century after Christ:

Whatever his social status, no Egyptian of the fourth century could have had any doubt that his was a land whose population lived under a pall of perpetual fear of starvation. It was not for nothing that ‘poverty’ and ‘famine’, ‘the poor’ and ‘the starving’ shared the same root in Coptic. While the Nile valley was a zone of food, braced against the threat of famine, the desert was thought of as the zone deprived of human food: it was a zone of the nonhuman. For this reason, the most bitter struggle of the desert ascetic was presented not so much as a struggle with his sexuality as with his belly. It was his triumph in the struggle with hunger that released, in the popular imagination, the most majestic and the most haunting images of a new humanity. Nothing less than the hope of Paradise regained flickered, spasmodically but recognisably, around the figures who had dared to create a human ‘city’ in a landscape void of human food.

The passage is powerful in its own right, but it was the footnote that sent me on from the hunger of the belly to the hunger of the Eucharist. “The reader is strongly advised to consult Caroline Bynum, Holy Feast and Holy Fast: the Religious Significance of Food to Medieval Women. This is an account of the meaning of fasting and of self-mortification that is conducted on a level of empathy and sophistication unusual in Early Church or mediaeval history”.

So I came to my second book. I have read this through twice. It is having an effect on me that is religious, psychoanalytic, historical, and it doesn’t seem to be coming to an end. It goes on working on me. What I am going to say now can only be a provisional account of it.

First, it associates polymorphous and perverse bodily experience with metaphysics and history. The dreams which moved me to participation in the eucharist included bodies which are like mine and yet crucially different to mine: women’s bodies. How does a male body make sense of its experience when that experience is of a female body? Caroline Bynum’s study of women in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries describes in extraordinary detail how women assimilated the body and blood of the man Jesus to their own flesh. The detail is perverse, polymorphous, obscene, glorious. The work of assimilation is social and metaphysical, the personal body broken open into the body of society and into the body of the maker and redeemer of the universe.

This breaking open has a history. For the women of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries participation in Christ’s risen flesh was not the same as in the centuries covered by Peter Brown’s book. What hunger meant had changed. “In early Christian hymns, hunger seems to mean human vulnerability (either inflicted by nature’s rhythm of scarcity and plenty or espoused deliberately in fasting); the implication is, therefore, that the hungry will be satisfied. In the spirituality of eleventh and twelfth century Europe, however, hunger began to mean a craving that can never be filled” (p.66).

Bynum’s description of this historical change in the nature of christian hunger affects me powerfully. It makes me more willing to follow on from dreams that speak quite simply of flesh as implicated in both metaphysics and history, in a metaphysics that is not timeless but timeful. Once that risk is taken it becomes more possible to air certain possibilities. These give me my second and third stages in opening up my overdetermined experience of the Eucharist.

The second is to draw out the implications of Eucharistic hunger as reciprocal: human hunger for God, God’s hunger for humanity. Bynum quotes the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215, summing up the christian belief of centuries, as follows:

There is one universal church of the faithful, outside which no one at all is saved. In this church, Jesus Christ himself is both priest and sacrifice, and his body and blood are really contained in the sacrament of the altar under the species of bread and wine, the bread being transubstantiated into the body and the wine into the blood by the power of God, so that to carry out the mystery of unity we ourselves receive from him the body he himself receives from us [accipiamus ipsi de suo, quod accepit ipse de nostro] (p.50).

The experiences of the women whose lives she presents to us invests such words with a vivid immediacy. Feeding is both transitive and intransitive. Women fed others. They also fed on God. They also made their bodies available for God’s feeding. To experience the body as food in this way included sexuality. As both transitive and intransitive, feeding shared with sexuality the experience of body as subject and object of hunger. To eat and to be eaten express an interpenetration and mutual engulfing (p.156) of human beings with one another and of humanity with God.

But can such feeding satisfy a craving that can never be filled? If the Eucharistic hunger is reciprocal, how is the feeding of those thousand thousand mouths reciprocated in God? God as food, God as hunger. How do they come together?

In the equation of hunger with effective suffering.

This is a pivotal idea of my talk, and brings me to my third stage in applying Bynum’s book to my over determined experience of the Eucharist: women’s feeding as participation in Christ’s effective suffering.

Not only did medieval women deny themselves food, they also became food – in their own eyes and in the eyes of male admirers. And when they ate God, they were not merely focusing their hunger sensations (otherwise unrecognised) on the eucharist. They were also reversing their ordinary cultural role as food preparers and food abstainers. They were ‘eating’ God whose edible body – a nursing body – was in some sense seen as female and therefore as food. Moreover, women manipulated far more than their own bodies through fasting. They manipulated their families, their religious superiors, and God himself. Fasting was not merely a substitution of pathological and self-defeating control of self for unattainable control of circumstance. It was part of suffering; and suffering was considered an effective activity, which redeemed both individual and cosmos (pp206-7).

And later, in summarising her whole argument, Bynum writes:

… medieval asceticism should not be understood as rooted in dualism, in a radical sense of spirit opposed to or entrapped by body. The extravagant penitential practices of the thirteenth to the fifteenth century, the cultivation of pain and patience, the literalism of imitatio crucis are, I have argued, not primarily an attempt to escape from body. They are not the products of an epistemology or psychology or theology that sees soul struggling against its opposite, matter. Therefore they are not – as historians have often suggested – a world denying, self hating, decadent response of a society wracked by plague, famine, heresy, war and ecclesiastical corruption. Rather, late medieval asceticism was an effort to plumb and to realise all the possibilities of the flesh. It was a profound expression of the doctrine of the Incarnation: the doctrine that Christ, by becoming human, saves all that the human being is. It arose in a religious world whose central ritual was the coming of God into food as macerated flesh, and it was compatible with, not contradictory to, new philosophical notions that located the nature of things not in their abstract definitions but in their individuating matter or particularity (pp.294-5),

on which she comments in a footnote

If I am correct in this admittedly controversial interpretation, the insight should help us see how Christianity is different from other world religions – none of which has quite this emphasis on the glory and salvific potential of suffering flesh (both our’s and God’s). My interpretation calls attention to the characteristically Christian idea that the bodily suffering of one person can be substituted for the suffering of another through prayer, purgatory, vicarious communion, and suggests that this idea should not be taken for granted as an implication of the Crucifixion. Rather, it should be explored as one of the most puzzling, characteristic, glorious, and horrifying features of Christianity (p.418).

Quotations like that out of a book you have not read yourself are not easy to digest. But I give them to you at length like that because they do give a sense of what this book is about, and why it has spoken to my experience of the Eucharist as heavy with meaning that we have not yet realised.

Let me now try and digest them for you, into my argument this afternoon. What I find here is confirmation of a link between hunger and invention, and between hunger and exponential growth. The equation of hunger with effective suffering gives us the link between hunger, invention, and exponential growth.

The link with invention is made in the conversion of effective suffering into experiment. Bynum sees the religious significance of food to medieval women as developing in three steps. Food means flesh. Flesh means suffering. Suffering means redemption, redemption in the body of the Creator. I compare these three steps with the unfolding of scientific curiosity through experiment into invention. So that

food means flesh = curiosity
flesh means suffering = experiment
suffering means redemption = invention.

At the end of the sixteenth century Francis Bacon was to explain the new scientific method as ‘putting nature to the torture’. Caroline Bynum describes the Eucharist experience of women three centuries earlier as a putting of both human nature and of God to torture, to suffering of a kind which can be assumed to be profitable.

“Suffering of a kind which can be assumed to be profitable”. For a hundred years and more historians have been familiar with the idea that the rise of capitalism was associated with the Reformation and with Protestant forms of religious experience. I think we need to widen the field of association between economic and religious history to include women’s and men’s experience of the Eucharist.

For the link between hunger and exponential growth we have to go back to the other theme of Bynum’s book, the change in the nature of hunger from something to be satisfied into something which knows itself to be unsatisfiable.

To digest this theme we need to remember Biblical and christian emphasis on time. Eucharistic hunger for flesh that is both suffering and redemptive is not something that can be satisfied in time. It is also hunger for time and hunger of time. In the Eucharist our human hunger for time is met by time’s hunger for its own fulfilment. It is effective in the end.

As this is probably the most difficult idea of my talk I want to dwell on it for a moment, amplifying it in terms of corn and promise.

One of the oldest images for the distinction and connection between linear and circular time is seed corn: the corn taken from the year’s harvest which is on no account to be eaten. It has to be kept for next year, so that next year’s harvest will come. Without it there is no next year’s food. Eucharistic hunger is like a hunger that can only be satisfied by seed corn. We are no longer satisfied by ordinary food. Our hunger is such that only the food which ensures tomorrow can satisfy us. That is what I mean by hunger for time.

But the gearing between food and time in the Eucharist is even stronger than that. We must remember what Bynum says about the reciprocity of human and divine hunger. The body being eaten is the body of the Saviour, the body which in saving time from its passing hungers for its own consumption. This is what I mean by time’s hunger for its own fulfilment. The seed corn hungers for its own consumption.

Think now of promise. One of the central themes of both Old and New Testament is promise. But, as I have argued in many places, promise works by virtue of its own negation. For a promise to be kept it has to be breakable. Our ability to keep a promise is proved in our ability to break it. Which the Bible knows well.

Promise and its breaking are integral to the Eucharist. Promise needs time to pass so that it may be kept. But promise also abolishes the passing of time. It says that the passing of time can make no difference. Promise guarantees the present as proof of both past and future. Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.

Keeping the promise is like keeping the seed corn. We wait for its time to come. But if we have to wait too long something happens to our hunger. It begins to feed off the delay. The fact that the promise has not been kept itself becomes our food.

It seems to me that in the Eucharist both are said. The promise proclaims itself broken, and then says Feed on me. So what happens when the seed corn hungers for its own consumption? Hunger becomes charged with the regeneration of time. Acceleration is built in. The guarantee of the future is to be eaten now. I think this is the beginning of ‘the invention of the method of invention’. If the seed corn is to feed on itself then only invention will satisfy. Hunger is caught in the need constantly to reinvent the future.

But this is not much more than my intuition. Historians of science won’t pay attention to ideas like this unless they are supported by a lot more coherent intellectual argument. Much work has been done on the development of the experimental method in the sciences of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. To link this with my thesis that women (and presumably men too) had already begun to explore experiment in the Eucharist centuries earlier we need an intellectual frame of reference which we do not at present have.We have to be able to move more easily, with more confidence, with more shared research, between (1) cannibalism, (2) the idea of effective suffering, and (3) what has been called ‘the politics of experiment’. And we have to do so with both feeling and thinking. We need an intellectual frame of reference which is embodied, incarnate. The dependence of human flesh on human flesh and of human blood on human blood has to be comprehensively related to making the world in which we make our living. My third book helps towards such an embodied understanding.

In Divine Hunger: Cannibalism as a Cultural System Peggy Reeves Sanday draws on psychoanalytic theories from Jung and Neumann and Freud. There is no reference to Klein, though her quotations from Neumann often read like Klein on hunger for and of the breast. She also draws on Paul Ricoeur’s work on the theology of defilement, sin and guilt, which gives a Biblical ‘edge’ to her use of psychoanalytic theory. But primarily Sanday’s book is to be read as symbolic anthropology.

She argues that ritual cannibalism constructs our understanding of the origin and continuity of life and society. It ensures that both life and society go on from one generation to another. Life and society aren’t the same thing atall. They are different kinds of reality. And yet they belong together. We can’t have one without the other. Cannibalism keeps them both going, together. Cannibalism controls, and therefore understands, the vital forces necessary for the reproduction of life and society in relation to each other. It is important to note that the control comes first, the doing before the understanding.

The overall system of control and understanding of which cannibalism is an essential part Sanday calls an ‘ethno-ontology’. By this she means the effective metaphysics by which different societies ensure the continuity of themselves and of their world. This is a crucial idea for my talk.

To understand it we have to think of belief, and of world. How do they interact? Ethno-ontology is how a society’s beliefs constitute their world simultaneously with that world evoking those beliefs. This reciprocity or conjugation of belief and world is made effective in ritual, in kinship, in feeding, in work, in sacrifice. It is effective in two directions: the world acts on us, and we act on the world. The action is simultaneous. Neither comes ‘before’ the other.

(To raise the question of ethno-ontology in our own lives try asking yourself: what guarantees the continuity of history? Am I involved in that guarantee? If so, how? Is it an active or passive involvement? For instance, what makes me feel responsible for the future? How far ahead does my sense of responsibility reach? How does that future ‘reach’ connect with what is past?)

What interests Sanday in her approach to cannibalism is how this ethno-ontology of belief and world ensures the continuity of society. I have now read her book three times, making pages of notes. For me, it opens christian reflection on the Eucharist into worlds that are alien, abominable, and hideously effective. It also confirms me in my belief that locked within the Eucharist is an understanding which controls our exponential growth.

Our starting point has to be the link between hunger and effective suffering. Sanday talks of “the demonically hegemonic power of hunger” (p.103), and of “the destructive force of primal voraciousness” (p.117). She gives example after example of the reciprocity between eater and eaten. This reciprocity is a moral law that permeates mythology and ritual. He who wants to get food must become food. By humans entering into this reciprocity the hegemonic power of hunger is put to work in reproducing society and life together. Cannibalism celebrates the conjunction, making it both effective and convivial.

But the ways in which it does so are many and varied. To compare cannibalism as a cultural system with christian teaching on the Eucharist is to realise how many other ways there might be to understand the breaking and chewing of flesh that is both human and divine, the drinking of blood which is different when given by a woman or a man. Summarising at the end of her book, Sanday recognises four main kinds of cannibalistic experience:

1. as a response to famine

2. as a symbol of chaos, it is equated with all that must be dominated, controlled or repressed in the establishment of social order

3. as a symbol of order, cannibalism regenerates society by transmitting vital essence between the dead and the living, the human and the divine, the human and the animal

4. as a system of symbols and oppositions that channel energy from the realm of the diffuse, chaotic and unconscious in subjective awareness to the realm of the interpersonal and social. The transmission of energy within society and between the generations is itself culturally constructed, and the ways in which we make ourselves into food in order to have food are an essential part of both transmission and construction.

It is the variety I want to emphasise. It speaks to my experience of the Eucharist in ways that christian teaching does not. To pick (or is to unpick?) the lock that guards the hugely overdetermined power of the christian Eucharist, we need to be able to draw on many different kinds of experience of hunger and the suffering associated with hunger. One source of such experience is our dreaming. But dreaming can be so chaotic, so idiosyncratic, so perverse, that we despair of bringing it to bear on the christian Eucharist, its past, its present, its future. The comparative material collected together in a book like Sanday’s has given me fresh courage to keep trying.

Like this. The vision I have already tried to articulate in various papers is grounded in christian trinitarian theology. But it is not the Christianity of the Church. It speaks of the killing of the Third Person of that Trinity, and of the eating and drinking of its blood, so that its power is taken into the human food chain as well as into the reflections of mind and of desire. The Third Person of the christian Trinity has suffered division. It has got into our ecology as well as into our technology. I believe that the Third Person of the christian Trinity is at work in the financial markets of the world and in our manufactures, in the research and development laboratories which create new appetites and jobs as well as the goods with which to feed these appetites and justify these jobs. It is also lodged in our food chain, in the whole order of interdependencies of which hunger makes us part.

What is it like to carry that division in our blood and in our history? Here is an example how another culture recognises and controls divisions of the spirit.

Chapter 4 of Sanday’s book is about a people called the Bimin-Kuskusmin who live in Papua New Guinea. There are about one thousand of them. They have known about Europeans since 1912 but did not experience direct contact until 1957. When studied by an anthropologist from 1971 to 1973 such contact was still quite limited. Most of the population had not seen a European, and the influx of Western technology was not in evidence beyond the use of steel tools.

The chapter is titled ‘the androgynous first being’, and Sanday’s study of their cannibalism is about how they construct rituals, which in their turn construct their world, so as to ensure that both male and female blood pass from generation to generation and in doing so create social order. Agnatic blood, the blood that passes down the male line through semen, is different from menstrual blood. Menstrual blood is a dualistic substance. It carries the capacity for witchcraft and mystical malevolence. And its power in relation to female fertility causes men to seek ritual control of it, as a means for controlling agnatic fertility. But agnatic blood is also dualistic. The spirit, kusem, transmitted by semen has two aspects. I do not know how to pronounce their names as given: finiik, and khaapkhabuurien.

The finiik aspect of spirit is strengthened by agnatic blood, semen, and male foods and ritual. It represents the social and moral dimensions of personhood. It stores collective knowledge and experience, and is like conscience and intellect. Khaapkhabuurien, on the other hand, gains vigour from female substance, especially menstrual blood. It represents the unpredictable and idiosyncratic aspects of personality that differentiate individuals from one another. In this sense it contrasts with the moral and jural dimension of finiik (p.89).

This distinction is made within experience associated with agnatic blood. There is also a similarly dualistic experience associated with menstrual blood. The double distinction structures and energises the ontology and sociology of these people. Their cannibalism expresses and controls the psychological and social influences that can destroy society, and those that create cooperation and solidarity (p.93).

This is a very specialised example of the symbolic anthropology which Sanday makes available for us in this book. But for those of us who know Jung’s psychology of alchemy it does not stand alone. For Sanday goes on to compare this almost contemporary Papuan cannibalism with the alchemical process, as described in Dr. von Franz’s study of Gerhard Dorn in her book Alchemical Active Imagination.

The bodies of the Bimin-Kuskusmin victim and of those who consume the victim represent vessels in which the goal of purification and transformation is biological and social reproduction. The victim’s body is purified through torture and sacrifice. The rite identifies the evil in the victim by inserting arrows and bone slivers into those parts of the body identified with major enemies and witches. The torture and pain inflicted on the victim are essential to the reduction and transformation of the major enemy and witchcraft status of the victim. The victim must show that he or she is made of strong material by withstanding the torture. The torturers help in this process by prolonging the victim’s agony while ensuring that he or she does not die prematurely…

Throughout the Great Pandanus Rite there is considerable evidence of a concern with reducing and transforming destructive energy in the interest of the intergenerational continuity of natural substances encoding ritual and procreative strength (the analogue of the alchemist’s gold). There is also evidence of the process of coniunctio in each act of reduction and transformation. After the victim is dead, for example, the head (considered a male substance) is severed and tied to one of the pandanus trees to rot. The other pandanus tree received the victim’s female bodily parts. This separation of the victim’s body into male and female parts, which are then linked to the two trees of the opposite sex of the victim, represents the separation of the masculine and feminine from the totality constellated at the beginning of the rite and then joined to the opposite sex in nature in the interest of fertility. In almost every ritual act both the antithesis and the union of male and female are reiterated.

Putting Sanday’s symbolic anthropology together with Jung’s psychology of alchemy in this way makes for strange thinking and uncomfortable, if not obscene, bodily reactions. Historians of science may find it unacceptable. But they are going to have to learn to take part. As a correspondent has written: “if cannibalism and theophagy correspond to something universal, then we have to account for the enantiodromia by which they are both, to many, repulsive or plain perverse”. The history of science has to take that enantiodromia into its ruminations. Without its perversity and repulsion we cannot incorporate our own ethno-ontology. Without it flesh and blood will be taken over (transubstantiated) by the inventive, exploitative and consuming hunger of our science.

Our own ethno-ontology

In previous talks on this theme I have referred to A.N.Whitehead’s book Science and the Modern World. First published in 1926 it is still widely read, and I recently saw it included in a catalogue from a ‘Green’ bookshop. It is one of our century’s major attempts to look at the ethno-ontology of our culture.

Whitehead draws attention to an absolute contradiction at the heart of our use and enjoyment of science. The sentences which I quoted in my Riddley Walker paper still seem to me to stand, unanswered, in their challenge to a huge intellectual complacency.

The enterprises produced by the individualistic energy of the European peoples presuppose physical actions directed to final causes. But the science which is employed in their development is based on a philosophy which asserts that physical causation is supreme, and which disjoins the physical cause from the final end. It is not popular to dwell on the absolute contradiction here involved.

Another way of putting this is that we don’t know why science works, but are happy to take the fact that it does work as good enough reason for not worrying about our ignorance. For many people the fact that science works makes any kind of ontology redundant. But that attitude is more dubious today than when Whitehead wrote. The fact that science works is now widely felt as a threat as well as a comfort. Because we have come to realise that its working is geared to consumption of a peculiar kind, consumption that does not want to be satisfied.

For instance, in a review in the TLS on January 14, 1994, Professor Roy Porter discussed various books on the present state of medicine, under the heading “How medicine became the prisoner of its own success”. In his review Roy Porter had this sentence. “Medical consumerism – like all sorts of consumerism, only more menacingly – is designed to be unsatisfying”.

Consumerism that is designed to be unsatisfying. Hunger as a craving that we do not want filled. Suffering which can be assumed to be profitable. The link I am trying to make is between Sacred Hunger and the effectiveness of both science and suffering. Is science, both pure and applied, related to suffering of a kind which we have either forgotten, or not yet realised: suffering which connects our inventive, exploitative and consuming science with whatever is locked into the torture and cannibalism of the christian Eucharist?

It is imaginable. Feminism is asking questions about the history of science which Whitehead would have had difficulty in finding words for. Jung’s psychology of alchemy is questioning our metaphysical inheritance in ways which open up new and possibly terrifying horizons for the incarnation of thought. Energy of this kind is prepared to dwell on the absolute contradiction to which Whitehead referred us. Let us apply this energy to the history of the christian Eucharist.

In the ethno-ontology from New Guinea which I have mentioned spirit is differentiated according to whether it belongs with menstrual or agnatic blood. Spirit is further differentiated within each category, so that both kinds invite doubt. The continuity and ecology of society are dependent on how the hunger for, and the hunger of, such blood are regulated. There is a complexity, a polyvalence, to such an analysis of cannibalism which fits my overdetermined, impacted experience of the Eucharist in a way that christian teaching does not.

The point about Sanday’s book as compared to Bynum’s is that she brings many and various ethno-ontologies to bear on the study of cannibalism. This opens up a field of study and reflection within which questions can arise which might otherwise not be allowed. For instance, connections between blood, semen, and milk. We allow for these in psychoanalysis. Should we allow for them in our study of the Eucharist?

Bynum’s book says such connections are certainly there, but she is not reaching out to make anything of them beyond personal experience. Sanday’s book argues that there is a social dimension as well. By demonstrating how different ethno-ontologies regulate hunger which is both for food and for life, human flesh and blood being both, she places the Eucharist in a context of social choice. Hunger is all consuming if we do not make the right sacrifice. So sacrifice has to be made. But there is choice as to what kind of sacrifice.

There is no one explanatory insight in these books which is going to reveal connections between Eucharistic suffering and scientific experiment, between Eucharistic hunger and the fear and greed which drive capital in its exhaustion of natural resources, between Eucharistic hope and the acceleration of hunger. What there is is evidence of diversity, and we need such diversity if choice as to the kind of sacrifice that has to be made is to become an acceptable part of our way of life, if the kind of very radical adjustments being demanded by environmentalists are to be compatible with a relatively free society.

Cannibalism discriminates. It allows for taste. It knows that there are things we can stomach, and things which we cannot stomach. It is cruel, but its cruelty is adapted to circumstance. The Eucharist has condensed that diversity into a once and for all all or nothing. To own its responsibility for the inventiveness, exploitation, and enjoyment of modern science, christianity will have to open that condensation to choice. Eucharistic experience of Sacred Hunger will be compared with psychoanalytic exploration of infancy, the effectiveness of suffering and the effectiveness of experiment will be tested against each other outside as well as inside the Church, and the difference between agnatic and menstrual blood will make itself felt in the stock markets of the world.

Hunger at the beginning of the Bible

I want now to go to the beginning of the Bible and see what it has to say about hunger: the stories of Cain and Abel, of Jacob and Esau. Do those stories tell us anything about the acceleration of hunger?

Before I had ever read Melanie Klein on good and bad breasts, I read about Cain and Abel in Ian Suttie’s Origins of Love and Hate. First published in 1935, Suttie’s book attempted to reorganise Freudian theory round hunger rather than sex, and to find in hunger and its satisfaction an alternative basis for psychoanalysis. What I remember from my reading of it sometime in the 1950’s is his discussion of what he calls Cain jealousy, “the control of which is the ethical leitmotif of the Mother cults”. He reads the Cain Abel story in the light of early anthropological accounts of Australian aboriginal peoples living on the edge of subsistence, with ferocious hunger as an everyday reality. Among such people, he says, the mother eats every second child, sharing it with the older baby, and comments: “Not only can the child go on ‘eating the mother’, but she even lets it eat the younger baby”.

Is there such a memory behind the Cain Abel story? I suppose one reason why Suttie’s theory made such an impact on me was that it touched memories of my childhood response to the Jacob Esau story. For me, this has always had a far more powerful resonance than the story of Oedipus. Since reading Suttie I have on two occasions gone into the Jacob Esau story in detail and at slow length, in enactment. Each time I have been reminded of how closely it touched me when it was first read to me, probably when I was six or seven. How the mother helped one son substitute himself for the other, preparing food and also changing the feel of his own skin by dressing it in the skin of the meat he was taking into his father, so that he was as it were the raw, uncooked, version of the cooked flesh his father was to eat. Remembering also that this father, Isaac, had himself as child been saved from his father’s butchering knife by the substitution of other meat. The story remains, like the Eucharist, congested with more meaning than I can make sense of.

What Suttie’s book did for me was to flood that childhood story with a new, adult, sense of likelihood. It wasn’t just an old story. The world could indeed be just like that. Whole peoples could live in the presence of a primal voraciousness that never lets up, and mothers as well as fathers could turn children into food so that other children could be blessed. Subsequent reading in anthropology confirmed me in the belief that for many peoples the world is indeed so organised.

Was some such memory behind those early stories of Genesis?

But there is not only hunger. There’s sex too. We have the Adam and Eve story as well as Cain and Abel. Making sense of the first chapters of Genesis is more obviously about sex than it is about hunger. But if there is a primal voracity behind the sexual story, or if the two are intertwined in some unmentionable way, does it help to explain the extraordinary narrative power that imposed the stories of Genesis on the world?

Questions of that kind have been festering about in my mind for twenty, thirty, years. What brought them to a head, and led indirectly to my proposing this subject for my talk today, was another book, Chris Knight’s Blood Relations: menstruation and the origin of culture. If you take away nothing else from this talk of mine, I hope some of you will leave determined to get hold of and read this book.

I heard of it first in a review in the TLS of 7 February, 1992, by Peter Redgrove, who hailed it as a companion to his The Wise Wound, which he had co-authored with Penelope Shuttle in 1978. Redgrove described Blood Relations as “a magnificent work of materialistic science constructed from anthropological field work and tribal myth”, as compared to The Wise Wound, in which “we derived our ideas mostly from contemporary studies and dreams, and spoke as poets exploring aspects of the inner world of the menstrual cycle, its shared subjectivity”. And he went on: “Despite their different methods, neither book contradicts the other; indeed they seem to meet … in Knight’s triumphantly humanistic axiom: Magic for everybody, but no gods”.

There was much more in Redgrove’s review to excite my interest. When I got hold of a copy of Knight’s book I found that it was all the review had promised. I want to give you a brief summary of its argument, and to then say something about how it affected me.

Chris Knight is reconstructing a human revolution that occurred 70 to 50 thousand years ago. He argues that evolving ice age women learned to synchronise their menstrual cycle so as to exercise control over men both as hunters, food providers, and as sexual partners. Hunting, killing and sexuality were jointly regulated by women synchronising their menstruation. This was the beginning of human culture as we know it.

In his book we are standing as it were on a threshold between evolution and history. The synchronising of menstruation explains the appearance of new human characteristics. Not only the distinctive features of human female reproductive physiology but other features of both sexes, such as large brain size, reduced sexual dimorphism, and increased gracility, were all a result. A mating system based on female synchrony minimised the selective value of violence, maximised that of more co-operative social and communicative skills. This shift in selection pressures was the most important factor underlying the transition to anatomical modernity.

Mating systems of this kind involved the formation of unusually strong and enduring coalitions. Such systems were complex and intellectually demanding, particularly with regard to time awareness. This linkage of big game hunting timed by generalised ovarian/menstrual synchrony spread from African shoreline settings into ice age hinterland conditions during the Upper Palaeolithic revolution. The new logic then reached take-off point, and began to spread irresistibly across the globe, probably around 45,000 years ago.

Selection pressures in favour of heavier menstrual bleeding resulted in part from women’s need for visible signals to help keep track of their own and one another’s cycles. The use of blood in this context also meshed in with a focus on blood spilled periodically by men in the hunt, an idea which ties in with the view of classical scholars that the first true ‘contracts’ had always to be ‘signed’ in blood. (And here Knight refers to René Girard’s book Violence and the Sacred.) The result was a blood-centred symbolic system which linked game animals and the female body into a tightly integrated web of meanings in Early Upper Palaeolithic art. These included periodic notation systems, the use of ochre as a blood substitute, the recurrent association of vulva engravings with those of animals, figurines which emphasise the female reproductive organs, and more generally, the art’s suggestively lunar/menstrual as well as seasonal or ‘time-factored’ internal logic.

So to understand the ‘leap’ to symbolic culture in which history has its beginning we have to think of menstrual synchronisation as bringing domesticity, extended and formalised kinship, fire, the division of labour, sexual taboos, hunting and meat cooking, into one time conscious sexual-symbolic system.

That is Knight’s argument, as he summarises it half way through the book, at the beginning of Chapter 9. Whether it is true or not I am not qualified to judge. But what I want to convey here is not so much the argument of this magnificent book as the excitement it caused me. So let me read to you the opening of a long letter, full of questions and differences, which I wrote to the author shortly after my first reading:

I feel you have presented me with an opportunity to speak person to person about things which have been bugging me all my life. As what I have to say is a lot about differences, let me begin by recording the quite extraordinary sense of homecoming and comradeship which the book has for me. I have on occasion felt almost sick with excitement, but also relief, such relief: a release of tension as if I am at last in the presence of an understanding which allows something hard and knotted and perverse and intrinsically unshareable, to unfold, stretch, breath. In talking about difference I want to give expression to that feeling. To which end it is important to note that the excitement, both hormonal and cortical, has been such that I do not expect to be able to ‘fix’ it. It may well be that there is something at stake here which will have to wait until after I am gone.

What was it that so excited me?

It was the link between sex and time. For thirty years or more I’ve been haunted by the conviction that there is some quite simple link between sex and time which we are struggling to remember, or perhaps to discover ‘for the first time’. In my paper Alchemy and Psychosis: Curiosity and the Metaphysics of Time I spoke of the overlap of three different ‘time scales’ or ‘timings’: the time of my personal life, the time of history, and the time of evolution. Knight’s reconstruction of the threshold between evolution and history excites me because it assumes such an overlap. It assumes it by incorporating hunger into a more comprehensive ethno-ontology. First, there is sexual rhythm. Then there is the use of that rhythm to enforce and control hunting and killing for food. Then there is the thought of culture, history, time itself in so far as history is time, as originating in that enforcement. Together they speak into something congested and overdetermined in my experience which I have never been able to unpack. The release of tension as I read page after page of the detailed, passionate and ironic argument was extraordinary, and something for which I still feel great waves of gratitude.

But now, with reference to our Bible: does the memory of some such original event lie behind the stories collected together in the early chapters of Genesis? How is my reading of the Jacob Esau story affected if I allow myself the excitement released by Chris Knight’s book? And not only the Jacob and Esau story: Cain and Abel, Adam and Eve, and perhaps most pregnant of all with the Eucharist in mind, the blessing of Abraham and his seed when he has shown himself willing to feed his only son to God:

By myself have I sworn, says the Lord, because you have done this, and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will indeed bless you, and I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand on the seashore. And your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies, and all nations on earth shall pray to be blessed as your descendants are blessed, and this because you have obeyed me.

How is that blessing of agnatic blood related to the supply of food? Where are the breasts that can satisfy the seed which is to be like the sand upon the seashore? There has to be some balance, some reciprocity, between food and sex. The question who, or what, controls that balance is crucial to any ethno-ontology. Where in the ethno-ontology of Genesis is that control located?

I think the stories of Cain and Abel, Jacob and Esau, Adam and Eve, are telling us something about the acceleration of hunger. But, as people have been saying for two hundred years and more, they have to be read against earlier traditions. Genesis locates control of the balance between sex and food with God. If Chris Knight’s argument is to be believed there was a much earlier time when that control was not only located with women but actually dreamed up ¬by women. Genesis says that God’s control of the balance between sex and food underwrites the purpose of history. Knight’s argument is that history began when women dreamed up a specifically human way of balancing food and sex against each other. That’s quite a difference. We need to explore that difference if we are to understand the Bible’s contribution to the acceleration of hunger.


Now let me draw together the various themes of this talk.

I have tried to enlarge our concept of hunger to include our appetite for new things. There is hunger as it has always been, the hunger of starvation, of the homeless, of the unemployed. And there is a hunger that breeds, a hunger which, feeding on invention, is then reinvested in further invention. Our appetite for new things, appetite that links the inventive genius of the scientist to employment and the consuming public whose high street spending is watched so anxiously by economists: this is the appetite which is associated with the power of capital, a power that some have called a Sacred Hunger, others a greedy Moloch.

I have also argued that this hunger is accelerating, that it has somehow become not only hunger for goods but also hunger for time. As such it is not only not sustainable. It doesn’t want to be satisfied. It finds its fulfilment in the exhaustion of the resources on which it feeds.

This accelerating hunger derives from the Biblical experience of time. The Old Testament idea of covenant converted the passing of time into the fulfilment of promise. Sexuality and time were conjugated together in promise. The sexual multiplication of humanity was given a privileged place in the ordering of the world.

The advent of christianity marked a decisive change in understanding of this covenant. But I don’t believe that Christ saved us from the effect of conjugating sexuality and time with each other. What I believe happened is that this conjugation was broken open into an experimental hunger. The three decisive events of christianity are: first, that virginity was given a new ontological status. The receptive is responsive not only to, but with, the power of the maker. Second, that in betrayal and crucifixion the promise of the covenant was broken into an experiment with suffering. Suffering becomes inventive. And thirdly, that in the Eucharist hunger is given new purchase on history. Expectation of the end of time enters the food cycle as the seed corn offers Itself again and again yet once and for all to be eaten at Its own altar.

What followed on is the history of what I was brought up to call the Holy Ghost. It is a history of hunger, hunger for the making good of a promise that has not been kept, hunger for the answers that come when the maker is put to the test. It is a history with many branches, one of which is the development of the science and debt driven capitalism which have converted the world more completely than any other religion has ever got near to doing.

I believe that the Christ event, by which I mean the life of Jesus of Nazareth and what was made of it in the years after his judicial murder, began a new age: a new age in human history and in the history of our planet. The balance between the non-human and human worlds was altered, fundamentally and irreversibly. Christianity is right to insist that the importance of that event cannot be exaggerated and that it affects the whole world, whether the world call itself christian or not. It is wrong in understanding that event as a redemption, a saving, of the world. On the contrary, christianity has made it possible for humanity drastically to accelerate the destruction of the world. To understand this potential for accelerated destruction we have to take christian theology with the utmost seriousness, while allowing it to be wrong.

The Christ event is carried forward in history by the workings of the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Christian Trinity. But the Holy Spirit does not only work in and through the Christian Church. It has got out of the Church into the world. The Holy Spirit has got out into the world in the workings of modern science and technology, and in the fear and greed of our financial markets. Scientific invention and its applications, as we have come to know and practise and enjoy them in the last four hundred years, continue the Christ event. They are both redemptive and destructive. The politics of scientific experiment, the invention of the method of invention, and the play of that method on human fear and greed, are all the work of the Third Person of the Christian Trinity. But it is the Third Person escaped from the understanding of the Church. The original connection with the other two Persons of the Christian Trinity is broken. To respond to our potential for accelerated destruction, we have to understand that break.

To do so non-christians are going to have to take christianity very seriously indeed in order to find out how the science and technology which have conquered the world came into being. And christians are going to have to admit that we need the help of non-christians in researching how we have misunderstood our own history.

So, as we move towards global collapse, have we any grounds for hope? Is there an older understanding which will allow us time in which to cost the history of the Holy Ghost? I don’t know. But I do have it in me to believe that it is ready to be remembered.

With reference to the Bible, our theme today, I look to the beginning, and then to the end, to the after word.

At the beginning I look to those two questions asked by God: when Yahweh said to the woman “What is this that thou hast done?”, and to the man “What hast thou done? The voice of thy brother’s blood crieth to me from the ground”, and I ask myself: What is it that we have to tell which God does not know?

And at the end I look into the Eucharistic cup and I ask myself: what kind of blood is this? The order of service says that it is agnatic blood. Where then is the other blood? What has become of the hunger, the Sacred Hunger, in which menstrual and agnatic blood feed on each other? Has it got trapped in the seed corn that hungers for its own consumption?

In more worldly terms I have two suggestions.

If we are to convert global collapse into a series of more manageable catastrophes we are going to have to break the accelerating circuit of hunger and invention. This must entail interrupting the procession by which capital and technology feed on each other. That procession (I use the christian theological term deliberately) cannot be allowed to go on automatically. There is an accelerating cycle of invention, exploitation, consumption, invention and so on, that has to be broken. And the breaking involves timing. The acceleration of hunger cannot be just slowed down. It has to break into a beat, the beat of a time which we can keep.

Watch our economy for evidence of such a break. It could come as a catastrophic break down if we are not expecting it. But if we do, it could come as the first beat in a new rhythm, a rhythm for which our blood is hungering, to which we already know how to respond though we can not yet put that response into words. The language of economists is full of words that try and combine linear and cyclic experience of time. Is there evidence that they are already beginning to recognise something more like a beat between the two?

Try this, for instance, from last Monday’s Independent, remembering as I read that inflation is the breaking of a promise to repay debt.

The forward markets throughout Europe are now indicating that short rates are at or near their trough, with a sizable increase in rates now being expected during 1995. This is very bad news for the authorities, since it means that the markets are autonomously tightening monetary conditions despite the fact that the central banks genuinely believe this to be entirely inappropriate. It is hard to explain why the markets are so jumpy about inflation at present. One factor, though, is that the unhappy experiences of the 1970s continue to cast a long shadow. Then, the markets refused to believe that the monetary authorities would lose control over inflation as comprehensively as they did, so they accepted yields on government debt that failed to compensate them for rising prices for many years in succession. This period of daylight robbery has left the legacy that markets now require a high and permanent risk premium just in case inflation takes off again. With global activity now beginning to rise quite strongly … markets appear paranoid about inflation.

The time being kept by the markets and the time being kept by the central banks are not the same.

My second suggestion is about reproduction, our power to reproduce ourselves. Control over this power is now a political issue. As women and men argue and fight over it we sense that more is at stake than we realise. Something is happening that affects us everywhere. There are shock waves and disturbances of feeling and belief which reach into every corner of our lives. The ethno-ontology of our world is changing. To get at that change the political argument needs theologising.

I suggest that there is linkage between control of our reproductive powers and the automatism by which capital feeds off scientific invention. This is not a new idea. For many years graffiti at Oxford Bus Station proclaimed to the world: ‘Women in Labour keep Capital in Power’. But what makes the linkage? My argument this afternoon is that it is christianity, the christianity that has escaped from the Church into machines and laboratories and financial markets. That’s where the energy and insight are locked up which we need if we are to respond more effectively to the linkage between human reproduction and the hunger of capital.

We are the key to that lock. It is for us to enter into, inhabit and operate the linkage between reproduction and capital. But to do so we will have to risk making connections between gender, theology, and hunger which are not allowed for in the Bible.