Posts Tagged ‘Jung’


what can I create?
— to match that fantastical
freedom to believe —
that gift of the madman to
himself — anything I like

Ten years ago I tried to write a memoir of my madness. It ran to 600 pages before I shelved it. But I’ve never quite given up the ambition to see myself in print. Yesterday I spent an hour or two drafting a new opening chapter for the umpteenth time. I saw clearer than ever, that madness was something I first encountered (and in some sense, actually chose) in the person of my gay lover at the age of fifteen. This translated into the image of him as a spider in last night’s dreams. He was crawling around inside my bed and I was very much afraid I had squashed him by mistake in my sleep. But no — he had survived after all. The implication, by simple algebraic equivalence — goes something like this. Call my lover X. Call madness Y. Call the spider Z. And then X = Y, X = Z, therefore Y = Z. Lover equals madness, lover equals spider, therefore spider equals madness. Back in the day when I used to read the Collected Works of C.G.Jung avidly, there was one small paragraph on the spider which drew my attention, where he interprets the symbol of the spider as a warning against madness. The quote does not appear to be on the ‘web’ (ha, ha) but it revolved around a pun, a play on the meaning of the verb ‘to spin’ in German which apparently can be used to mean ‘going mad’.



….and I would argue
for a return to the old
cosmology — Earth
at the centre of all things —
for this is where we are, yes?

I doubt I can explain this coherently. First let me describe my dream last night. I was in the centre of a large city. Although it was impossible, in the dream there was a planet not much smaller than the earth, located in the centre of the city, and a very skilful pilot was flying an aircraft or spacecraft, in a long elliptical orbit round the planet. Somehow he did not collide with the buildings of the city. The idea seemed to be to use the gravitational field of the planet (or the impetus of the orbit) like a sling shot as the point of departure for a longer journey elsewhere. Meanwhile I was worrying in case the mass of the orbiting spacecraft might in some way upset the equilibrium of the planet at the centre.

Secondly, let me sketch some thoughts I was having yesterday. In many spiritual traditions, there is the idea that the dead need to be able to let go of their attachment to things earthly and move towards ‘the light’ (whatever that means). This idea is found in spiritualism, in Tibetan Buddhism, and in Jung’s ‘Septem Sermones ad Mortuos’. I was thinking yesterday how absurd this is. Surely this life, on this earth, is worth every bit as much attention on the part of the dead, or more, than life in ‘heaven’. For me, this is similar to another idea I entertain periodically: the idea of telepathic communication with aliens. If aliens exist (probabilities are high that they do) and if their intelligence is superior to ours, they are far more likely to be encountered in our minds than in our skies. And in that case ‘here’ (this planet) is somehow not different from ‘there’ (their planet). And ‘we’ must be ‘them’. In that case, what seem to us purely human dramas — on this planet, in our families, in our minds — are in fact, unbeknown to us, providing an arena where ‘they’ act out their dramas.

In that sense, we are the centre of the cosmos. Or at least the centre lies, if not exactly in ‘us’, in the unknown foundations of our consciousness.

There are also resonances in all of this, for me, touching on my relationship with Liz and the way I have made her the centre of my universe.


Hillary Clinton
talks my language — wins my vote —
make America
whole  —  the words speak for themselves
— or am I being naive?

This poem arose out of a dream last night where I was sharing food and wine with my psychiatrist (Dr Collis) and his mentor (Professor Littlewood). Littlewood was my psychiatrist for about five or six years in the late nineties, and Collis at that time was still in training, as a ‘registrar’ on the same team. Then Collis took over as Consultant and I have had him as my psychiatrist ever since. He always calls me Mr Wetherell, and I always address him as Dr Collis. Which is slightly comical perhaps, after all I have known him fifteen years. In the dream, while passing various snacks and dishes around, I somehow managed to pin the wrong name on the wrong guy, referring to Littlewood as ‘Doctor Collis’. Awake, I sat down to think about this dream and obviously the first thing in my mind was the term itself ‘doctor’ and I thought to myself what a very old profession it must be — one of the first roles probably, ever discovered, for one human being to play in relation to another — bringing them out of sickness, through healing, to wholeness. Wholeness is a Jungian term. It popped into my mind that Hillary Clinton had used it recently on the news, saying in a speech that, unlike Donald Trump who wants to make America great again, she wants to make America whole again. I don’t possess an American vote (the suggestion that I do, in the poem, is poetic licence) and don’t know enough about American politics to understand why Hillary is regarded apparently quite widely, with such suspicion. I gather she might be guilty of shady financial dealings. I take that seriously — but suddenly felt, in writing the poem, that just her choice of the word ‘whole’ says a lot about her that’s good. She must have one foot (or one toe) in the same world as me. The world where psychological healing matters.


am I arrogant?
yes — it’s logical — how else
does a man hold such
a passionate belief in
his own utter foolishness?

Very pleased with this (more proof of arrogance!). It doesn’t have a very intimate connection at all, with last night’s dreams, which seem to have continued the theme of wisdom from yesterday’s poem — or at least wisdom as found (or not found) in the older generation. I dreamed of my very old nextdoor neighbour, and also of the Queen Mother, who was expected to be available for the job of comforting Princess Diana. Somehow that wasn’t happening. From wisdom, I progressed to thinking about foolishness, and the poem was born.


above all, Wisdom
to me — means acceptance of
my own helplessness

Last week I had a conversation at work about Russia, and I enthused briefly about St Basil’s Cathedral which knocked me out completely when I saw it in 1986. In my dream last night, I was in Moscow with St Basil’s in the background, and seemed to be trying to get back to Europe. My method of transportation was to be towed in flight by a flying woman who was well disposed towards me. But we nearly set out in the opposite direction by mistake and were only saved from this by the spirit of my dead maternal grandfather who intervened and set us in the right direction. The idea ‘grandfather’ resonates for me with the Jungian archetype of the ‘Wise Old Man’. I don’t know whether my grandfather was a particularly wise person. I don’t know whether I am. But I like thinking about what wisdom means to me, and this poem states it simply.


civilisation —
what does it all amount to?
— we’re human beings
unable to escape from
our own terms of reference

This will have to do. I’m not sure whether the point is an obvious one, or incredibly clever and obscure. It’s not my own insight at all, just simply something Jung says, somewhere in his writings, about the human race — that we lack any reference point outside ourselves, and therefore cannot know what we are, since we are a stand-alone phenomenon on this planet, and lack any standard of comparison. Courageously, he makes the point that only some kind of contact with extra-terrestrial beings could provide us with the kind of self-knowledge he has in mind. I dreamed I was discussing my sister, talking about her relationship with a man as ‘platonic’. In this way, awake, I fell to thinking about Plato. What a giant, culturally speaking! Yet he was just a bloke, and many on the planet will not have heard of him, and it’s quite possible if our current civilisation collapses, that he will be forgotten without trace. What will he amount to then? What does any of it amount to? I originally wanted to call human civilisation ‘incestuous’ and ‘narcissistic’ in the poem. But too many syllables, and too deliberately startling: the effect would have been clumsy.


there’s no need to prove
sanity or madness — truth
is the faculty
of compassion, discovered
in myself — of all places

I quite like this poem. It just manages, by the skin of its teeth, to avoid pretentious moralising. I dreamed of my maternal grandfather, who sang bass for many years in Carlisle Cathedral Choir. He was a working class lad who left school at fourteen, had a wonderful singing voice, but was also perhaps too fundamentally scared of life to make good. In my dream, I saw him going off somewhere to practice his singing, and prove himself, and I felt sad because I knew his efforts were doomed. He would fail to break through the barrier of his own neurosis. Apart from that, I also dreamed of my mother’s Jungian analyst, Fred Plaut. Yesterday evening I worked quite late on a talk I will be giving this week, on spirituality and mental health. Central to the talk, is my own ‘mental illness’, and also the experience of hallucinating a flood of gold light pouring from Fred Plaut’s eyes when I first met him. I’ve analysed this experience quite successfully I think, in the talk. But unless I can talk with compassion (towards myself) it will end up with me hiding my vulnerability behind the analysis.