by Gary Lachman
10 Sep 2010
I'm very happy that Greg Taylor has invited me to contribute a blog to the Daily Grail, one of the best sites for esoteric news that I know of, and to start off I'm posting a link to a recent interview I did here in London for Conscious TV. Although the name Conscious TV may sound like an oxymoron, don't let that fool you. I was very pleased that Iain McNay, the interviewer, gave me the opportunity to talk about my life and experiences, both as a writer and as a musician. I was also glad that we had a chance to talk about a few other things as well. It may seem a bit of a jump to go from playing rock and roll in an underground but soon to be fairly successful band, to discussing the importance of C.G. Jung's life and ideas, but as I mention in the interview, my interest in Jung, Steiner, Ouspensky and the other thinkers I've written about, began around the same time as I started playing music. In many ways it's not surprising that there remains a link between some kinds of popular culture and esoteric or occult ideas: both in different ways occupy a kind of penumbra around the central body of 'mainstream' cultural life. In that no man's land, that fringe of slightly 'dangerous' ideas, odd combinations occur, and links are made between cultural forms that might otherwise never meet. I recently had an opportunity to recognize this again, when Nicola Black, a filmmaker in Glasgow, invited me to be interviewed for a documentary about the avant garde filmmaker Kenneth Anger. I've always been a fan of Anger's work, and wrote about it in my book Turn Off Your Mind. I had also written a long essay on it for the British Film Institute's box set of his Magick Lantern Cycle, released last year, and later hosted a showing of his film Rabbit Moon at London's National Film Theatre. Anger's films, like the Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome, Invocation of My Demon Brother, and Lucifer Rising, are good examples of how otherwise disparate themes and ideas, stemming from occultism and pop culture, can come together to create a unique atmosphere that partakes of both, but somehow transcends them to arrive at something new.
The main occasion for the interview, though, was the publication of my latest book, Jung the Mystic, subtitled "The Esoteric Dimensions of Carl Jung's Life and Teachings." Much, of course, has been written about Jung, and I wouldn't be surprised if some readers ask if yet another book about him is necessary. Indeed, after Deirdre Bair's monumental and exhaustive biography, to tell Jung's life story again does seem redundant. But what struck me about much of the writing about Jung - and the reason I wrote the book - was how his life-long interest - obsession, even - with what we would call the paranormal, the occult, and the esoteric, was either skimmed over, applauded uncritically, or used as a stick to beat him with. In one sense, that writers come to such antithetical positions about Jung's involvement with the occult makes sense, as Jung himself was, for most of his life, of two minds about it. One, the public Jung, the persona of the no-nonsense Herr Doctor that he showed the world, was adamant that he was first and foremost a scientist. But practically from the start, in his personal life Jung was smack in the middle of the strange, ambiguous world of the paranormal that most scientists - these days at least - avoid like the proverbial plague. This has led to some confusion, with some died-in-wool Jungians chucking out the occult ideas in order to save the science, and other equally Jungian apologists eschewing the science in order to celebrate the esoteric parts. As I have no argument with either science or the occult, and have been reading Jung since the early 70s, I decided it would be a good idea to sort this mess out. Two themes then run through my book. One is to look at Jung's esoteric ideas sympathetically but critically, and to articulate the similarities between them and those of other thinkers, like Rudolf Steiner, Gurdjieff, and Swedenborg, all of whom I have written about. The other is to understand Jung's ambivalence about the occult. Was it sheer professional prudence that made him play his cards close to his chest, or was something else behind it? After all, Jung was making a name for himself at a time when the kind of narrow-minded, reductionist 'scientistic' thinking dominant today was gaining ground. Again, Jung is a good example of that odd meeting ground between esoteric ideas and popular culture, because, for all his insistence that he was a scientist, it was with a popular,lay audience that he gained his greatest following. The 'hard-headed' scientific community might not have accepted him, but by the middle of that 'mystic decade', the 1960s, Jung was celebrated by some of the most famous people in the world, like the Beatles - his face, remember, is among the crowd of 'people we like' on the cover of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band.
In any case, I hope visitors to the Daily Grail get something out of the interview. All the best and here's the link: