Tag: Jung

Recent talks, and a forgotten teacher

Here are some links to some talks I’ve given in recent months.

A Secret History of Consciousness, a three part series of lectures for the Theosophical Society, based on my book A Secret History of Conscious

In Part One: The Search for Cosmic Consciousness, I look at some contemporary scientific views about consciousness, and contrast these with the experiences of R.M. Bucke, William James, P.D. Ouspensky and others with what they called “cosmic consciousness.” How cosmic was it? Find out.

In Part Two: Esoteric Evolution, I trace a counter-tradition of evolutionary thought, beginning with Madame Blavatsky’s critique of Darwin, and leading to Rudolf Steiner’s strange union of theosophical cosmology and Goethean epistemology.

In Part Three The Presence of Origin, I give an overview of the life and work of the German-Swiss philosopher Jean Gebser, whose ideas about the “structures of consciousness” offer important insights into our contemporary post-everything world.

Here’s a video of a symposium on the Swedish mystic and artist Hilma Af Klint that I contributed to some years ago at the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, 2013.

A cheery conversation about death.

A talk about Owen Barfield.

The “forgotten teacher” mentioned above is Maurice Nicoll, who taught the Gurdjieff/Ouspensky Work in England for many years in the first half of the last century. Nicoll started out as the leading British disciple of Jung, but after meeting Ouspensky in late 1921, he switched his allegiance to the Fourth Way. Nicoll spent a year at Gurdjieff’s Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man in France, and on his return to London continued his studies under Ouspensky. In 1931, he was deputised to teach the Work himself, which he did until his death in 1953. He is most known for his exhaustive Psychological Commentaries on the Teaching of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky, and for his books The New Man, The Mark, – which deal with an “esoteric” reading of the Gospels – and Living Time, which marked him as, in J.B. Priestley’s words, a “time-haunted man.” He was also the author of the first book on Jung’s psychology written in English, Dream Psychology. Nicoll was also a deep reader of the works of Emanuel Swedenborg, and those familiar with Swedenborg’s, and Jung’s, ideas, will be aware of their presence in the later volumes of Nicoll’s Commentaries.

I have been asked to write a book about Nicoll, a sympathetic but critical study to complement the portraits of him left by some of his followers. A Go Fund Me page has been set up, asking support for this project. Readers of this blog know that I’ve written books about Jung, Ouspensky, and Swedenborg, and that Gurdjieff often turns up in my other books. I’ve written an article about Nicoll, published in Quest magazine a few years back, that should explain why he is important. The fact that he had Jung, Gurdjieff, and Ouspensky for teachers is enough to make him unique among modern seekers of wisdom. But that he introduced Jungian and Swedenborgian ideas into a Fourth Way teaching makes him an unusual instructor in that tradition. Nicoll was also keenly interested in the latest developments in science, in the work of Erwin Schrodinger, and the early findings in split-brain psychology, which was just beginning to get started toward the end of Nicoll’s life. Gurdjieff had entrusted Nicoll with the task of bringing the science of the west and the wisdom of the east into some creative union and in his last days he began to do just that.

Nicoll has been served well by his earlier biographers, Beryl Pogson and Sam Copley, but they were students and understandably biased toward their teacher. A recent discovery of a 1000+ page set of Nicoll’s diaries, covering crucial times in his life, also makes a new, non-partisan study of his life and work timely. Among other things, Nicoll’s diaries show a man struggling to find some way of life, some discipline, that could help him to unify and harmonise what for him were two mutually powerful but often antithetical drives, toward the spirit and toward the senses, toward the inner life of the soul, and the outer one of the body. A short video of an interview with me about Nicoll and why he deserves a new look can be found at the Go Fund Me page.

Authenticity, Holy Russia, Superheroes, and more…

One of my sons is studying existentialism at university, and he asked for some help on the topic of “authenticity,” living an “authentic” life. I wrote up some notes that you can find below. But before that, here are some updates.

On 25 February, at 6:30 PM UK time, I’ll be speaking online about my book The Return of Holy Russia for the Kensington Central Library.

On 26 February, I’ll be giving the keynote address at the Deus Ex Machina conference, hosted online by Masaryk University, at Brno, in the Czech Republic. My talk will look at how the comic book superheroes of my youth strike me as models for the transhumanist agenda, but also for something much more evolutionary…

My first book, Turn Off Your Mind, is back in print after a considerable absence. It’s new incarnation, as Turn Off Your Mind: The Dedalus Book of the 1960s, includes more than 100 pages of new material. It’s available on amazon.co.uk and should be available on amazon.com this spring.

My book on Swedenborg’s Correspondences – a long essay, really – is now available direct from the Swedenborg Society.

And there’s a thoughtful review of my Jung the Mystic at Steven Greenleaf’s very thoughtful blog.

And now for authenticity…

Notes on Authenticity for Joshua

We might say that concern with living an authentic life can be traced back to the beginning of philosophy, in the command to gnothi seauton, “know thyself”, that hung above the oracle at Delphi. We can also see it in Socrates’ criticism of the Sophists, who did not pursue the good, the true, and the beautiful, but were adept at using words to their personal advantage, making the “worse argument the better,” in other words, sophistry. And we can find it in the Gospels, when Jesus criticises the Pharisees and Saducees for their very visible acts of piety, which belied their lack of true humility. But we can say that the modern expression of this concern begins with the nineteenth century Danish writer Søren Kierkegaard.

Kierkegaard, a witty, eccentric outsider figure, was critical of the limp, complacent, hypocritical Christianity of his day, and with the abstract philosophy of Hegel. Kierkegaard believed that a true Christian, one who lived by the spirit and not only the letter of the Gospels, would feel what he called angst, anxiety and despair, because of his awareness of the reality his own limited, imperfect self in the face of God. The Christians of his day, much like many today, would go to church on Sunday and make the proper noises, but the rest of the time they were rather less than religious, and lived lives aimed at material comfort, ignoring the demands made on them that living as authentic Christians would bring.

Kierkegaard rejected Hegel because, although his system could account for everything, existence itself, in terms of logic and the Absolute Idea, it was useless in guiding him in how he should live his life. Kierkegaard compared Hegel’s philosophy to a map on which Copenhagen, where he lived, was the size of a postage stamp. It was of no help in getting him around town. Kierkegaard used the term “existential” to refer to these kinds of questions, of meaning and purpose – “why do I exist, and what should I do now than I do?” They referred to his existence, here and now, and what he should do with it, not to the historical unfolding of the Absolute Spirit. These were the kinds of questions religion used to answer but no longer did. Hegel’s magnificent system, in which everything fit into place, could not answer them either.

Most people aren’t bothered by these questions, and just live, doing what other people do. Kierkegaard and the existentialists who followed, believed that if one ignored these questions, one lived “inauthentically,” that is, one accepted a more comfortable, but false, way of living, in order to avoid the demands that come with living a true life.

Kierkegaard would be rediscovered in the 1920s, but before that, there was Nietzsche.

Dostoyevsky is also considered one of the founding fathers of existentialism, although he was a novelist, not a philosopher. (But Sartre wrote novels and plays, etc. too…) His novels deal with existential questions existentially, because he explores them with characters in life, not abstract ideas. But I don’t think you’re covering him.

Nietzsche didn’t know of Kierkegaard, although he did read some Dostoyevsky. Nietzsche’s ideas on authenticity are different than Kierkegaard’s, although both rejected the lukewarm, complacent Christianity of the time. Although Kierkegaard was a Christian and Nietzsche rejected Christianity, they were alike in their demand to live an authentic life. For Kierkegaard this meant a life that did not ignore the true reality of human existence. This meant to live a true Christian life, which Kierkegaard believed required what he called an “absurd leap of faith.” It is “absurd” because we cannot “know” in any scientific or rational way whether God exists (Hegel’s system notwithstanding), so we must take a chance and believe in spite of not knowing – and believe in a real, existential way, and not give lip service, as the Sunday Christians do. It demanded taking a risk, and the bourgeois Christians of Copenhagen, quite happy with themselves and their comfortable lives, rejected any risk.

Nietzsche’s command was not a leap of faith, but a perhaps equally absurd “yea-saying” to life, that he encapsulated in the motto amor fati, “love of fate.” It was absurd in the sense that such a love meant that one wishes nothing to be changed in one’s life, in the past or present, and that further one not only accepts but affirms and celebrates the “eternal recurrence” of this life. This was the test that Nietzsche presented to his readers, who were very few in his lifetime, but could be counted by the thousands soon after his death. Can you say “yes” to your life, so that were you to live it over in exactly the same way, you would wish for nothing more? Those who could pass this heavy test – Nietzsche’s calls it a “great weight”  – are candidates for becoming what he called the “overman,” which is often mistranslated as “superman.” The overman is able to accept the challenge of creating a meaning of his own, through his own zest for life and his creative engagement with it.

Nietzsche did not accept the idea of some transcendental world, which gave this world its meaning, whether the Christian heaven or the platonic Idea (or Hegel’s, for that matter). There is no heaven or higher world, and we can not find a meaning in this one, as if it was misplaced, or in terms of ideas such as “progress” or “emancipation” or other social developments. Nor can science help us here. Through our own engagement with life, we give it meaning, by living in such a way that we feel the affirmation, the “yea-saying,” that will allow us to accept the challenge, the heaviest weight, of recurrence.

But overmen are few and far between. More prevalent, for Nietzsche, are the “last men.” When Zarathustra comes down from the mountain top in order to proclaim the doctrine of the overman, the people in the marketplace are not interested. But when he speaks of the last men, they perk up their ears. Why? Because the last men live for comfort, pleasure, easy living. They are all alike, have no interest in the high ideals and creative challenges that being an overman bring, and reduce reality to triviality – much like our own post-post-post-everything world… They are like the pseudo-Christians Kierkegaard rightly detested, and the idea of recurrence, if not ridiculous, strikes them as a kind of hell.

I said that Kierkegaard was rediscovered in the 1920s. One of those who rediscovered him was Martin Heidegger, who started as a follower of Edmund Husserl, the founder of phenomenology. Heidegger eventually rejected Husserl’s phenomenology, and plunged into what Heidegger called a “fundamental ontology,” a study of being. Heidegger believed that what was wrong with people in the modern age was that they had become “forgetful of being.” In the German, they suffered from Seinsvergessenheit, “being-forgetfulness”. What does this mean? Essentially it means the same as Kierkegaard’s complaint that people ignore the reality of things, their mystery and sheer strangeness, and comfort themselves by living complacent lives, ignoring the fundamental question of their own existence.

When we do confront these questions – briefly, every now and then, in moments of despair and uncertainty – we experience what Heidegger called a sense of being “thrown into existence,” Geworfenheit, “thrownness.” We find ourselves here, now, in this strange universe, but have no idea why we or it exists. An “existential moment” occurs when you realise that none of the stories or reasons you had until then accepted as adequate accounts of the world and yourself in it, work. Most people quickly retreat into some more comfortable view of life, and for Heidegger, they live “inauthentically.” They are always aware of what the anonymous mass of others – the “They” – think, are doing, believe, and so on, and are happy and eager to do the same. For Heidegger, living authentically means accepting the reality of our radical finitude – the idea that we will die someday – and affirming the challenge of giving meaning to your existence, which means to remember your being, and all the sense of urgency that comes with, and not to forget it in losing yourself in the They.

I’ll end with Sartre, who took Heidegger’s notion of inauthenticity and repackaged it in what he called mauvaise foi, “bad faith.” This is when someone ignores or avoids the reality of his own existence and the responsibilities that come with it, and loses his own identity in some stereotypical one. So, a politician is always a politician, a professor is always a professor, a celebrity is always a celebrity. Their persona – the face they show the world – takes over from what we might call their “authentic” self. They no longer have to agonise over choices, because they already know what to do, they act in a stereotypical way. Their identity comes from other people, not from themselves. Their inner emptiness is hidden from themselves by the role they play.

Lost Knowledge with Jung the Mystic – and a Dark Star

I’ll be speaking about my books Jung the Mystic and Lost Knowledge of the Imagination at three Saturday Salons hosted by the Salome Institute of Jungian Studies. (Odd, just as I wrote “Salome,” the announcer on BBC Radio 3 – their classical station – commented on Salome’s “Dance of the Seven Veils” from Richard Strauss’ opera… That’s synchronicity for you.) The dates are April 11 and 25, and May 9. The talks are on Saturday mornings, 10:00 AM PST, which is 6:00 PM GMT. The Salome Institute is offering a 3 for 2 deal. If you’re tired of looking at cat videos, this might be a surprising change.

I’m also talking about my book Dark Star Rising: Magick and Power in the Age of Trump at an online event hosted by the Science and Medical Network. This starts at 7:30 PM GMT on 6 April.

I hope everyone is staying safe. As I mentioned on Twitter, I’ve been looking over my dream journals of several years – going back to the late 1980s and early 90s – and in a dream from 1998, I am told to “Just stay home. There’s no reason to go out. Just stay home, where it’s safe.” Here’s the link. I don’t know if this counts as a precognitive dream – that’s the focus of my next book – but it is certainly quite a coincidence.

 

Colin Wilson: Beyond the Robot, A Talk for the Theosophical Society

Here’s a link to a video of a talk I gave on 29 February 2020 on Colin Wilson’s life and ideas for the Theosophical Society here in London. As often happens with my talks, Part 1 ran over the original hour scheduled, so it was agreed that I would return later this year to give Part 2. The first part deals with Wilson’s early career, with The Outsider and the “new existentialism” he tried to establish through the books of the “Outsider Cycle.” Part 2 will deal with Wilson’s ideas about the occult, the paranormal and mystical experience. As readers of Wilson know, all of his work is centered around the question of the evolution of consciousness.

As you may notice, toward the beginning of the video I mention an odd synchronicity I had on the way to the talk. En route I stopped at a local market. While in the checkout queue, I casually looked at the magazine rack. There were a stack of Vogue magazines with most of the cover of the top one obscured by the magazines in the lower rack. But what was visible were the words “The Outsider.” As it turned out, this was the title of an article about a current pop singer and had nothing to do with Wilson. But as I was on my way to talk about The Outsider, I took it as a sign. It was the kind of synchronicity that Wilson himself would have loved, and it will feature in the book about precognitive dreams and synchronicity that I am about to start. It’s tentative title is Time and the Dreaming Mind.

Here’s a link to my tweet about this.

The Year Ahead: 2020 in View

Work, holidays, and other unavoidable hurdles in life – and there have been some tough ones – have kept me from keeping up this blog. For one thing, 2019 had me travelling around the globe, from Bogota to Sydney and Melbourne, New York to California’s Big Sur coast – where I spent at week at a fantastic symposium at the Esalen Institute – with pit stops in Montreal, Munich, Berlin, Rome, Turin, Milan and even China along the way. Whew indeed. Now I’m stationary, at least for the moment, and able to look at what lies ahead. Some travel, but also some appearances closer to home.

On 20 February I’ll be at the Kensington Central Library again, this time talking about my book Jung The Mystic. Yes, I know, for some it should be Jung The Mistake, but not for me. As I grown older and imperceptibly wiser – hmm – I see that the sage of Kunsnacht has more and more to say to me. And to you.

On 29 February I’ll be talking about my book Beyond the Robot: The Life and Work of Colin Wilson at the Theosophical Society in England headquarters in London. To those who don’t know, Colin was and remains a central influence on my work. I’m happy to have a chance to speak about his ideas and the importance they hold for us today. He was and remains well ahead of his time. And ours.

On 7 March I’ll be speaking about Aleister Crowley, that old beast, at the Pagan Phoenix Conference in Penstowe. From what I gather from the flyer, it sounds like it should be a jolly good time.

On 16 March I’ll be talking about my book Dark Star Rising: Magick and Power in the Age of Trump for the Science and Medical Network in Hampstead, London. You may have had your fill of Trump – I’d be surprised if you hadn’t – but if you want to get an idea about occultism in politics today and the effects of what I call “trickle down metaphysics,” this is the place to be.

On 18 April I’m scheduled to be interviewed by Kasper Obstrup at the Avisen Live 2020 Festival outside of Copenhagen, Denmark. Travel again, but only a short hop to “the continent.” Kasper is a Danish writer with a fascination with “radical culture,” which means the Beats and other denizens of the outre fringe. I suspect I will be in good company.

On July 3 I’ll be talking about “Colin Wilson’s Double Brain,” relating Wilson’s insights into split-brain psychology to recent developments in that area at the Third International Colin Wilson Conference, held in Nottingham, 3-5 July.

I’m also on the bill for the Ozora Festival, which will be held in Ozora, Hungary, outside Budapest, a psychedelic trance event held from 20-26 July. Details to follow. I’ll be re-reading Arthur Koestler’s autobiography, Arrow in the Blue, on the way.

In other news, there’s an interview with me and an excerpt from my new book, The Return of Holy Russia, in the latest edition of New Dawn magazine. Here’s the tweet.

I also have an interview in a new book about David Bowie, of all people. Masks: Bowie and Artists of Artifice explores the relationship between identity and creativity. I’m included along with John Gray, Slavoj Žižek and other fascinating, talented individuals.

Last, but surely not least, some nepotism. Here’s a link to my son, Max’s, You Tube Channel. Max is a violinist and filmmaker who has one proud ex rock ‘n roller for a dad. Please listen and subscribe.

There’s your mission. You have no choice but to accept it.

 

Jung at Heart and a Trip Down Under

Here is a link to my latest conversation with Jeffrey Mishlove. This time we take on Jung, and of course we can only scratch the surface.

On a different note, here is short notice for a trip down under. I’ll be in Melbourne and Sydney, Australia, in August, giving some talks. The idea of my heading there has been in the planning stage for quite some time, but it wasn’t until last month that it seemed it would really happen.

Here are the links for my talks in Sydney, on Dark Star Rising and Hypnagogia, the strange intermediary state of consciousness between sleeping and waking, with which many who attend my lectures are familiar… And here’s a link to a weekend devoted to A Secret History of Consciousness and Lost Knowledge of the Imagination.

And here is the information I have for my talks in Melbourne. Contact details are sadly missing but I’m working on getting them:

GARY LACHMAN – LECTURES IN MELBOURNE

DOCKLANDS

Saturday 3 August DOCKLANDS: Library at The Dock, Level 2, 107 Victoria Harbour Promenade, Cnr. Collins & Bourke Sts, VIC, 3008

10:00 – 11:30am – A LOOK INSIDE THE WORLD, our ancestors saw a living nature rather than a mechanical one. This vision informed Goethe’s view of the world and we can discover how to use this vision today.

2:00 – 3:30pm – A DIFFERENT KIND OF KNOWING, before reason, logic and “facts”, a knowing based on the total picture of reality prevailed. Throughout history there have been individuals who have combined both “facts” and the bigger picture.

WARRANWOOD

Sunday 4 August WARRANWOOD: The Michael Centre, 37A Wellington Park Drive, VIC 3134,  VIC

 2:00pm – 4:00pm – THE CARETAKERS OF THE COSMOS Living Responsibly in an Unfinished World, looking at how ancient ideas about our place in the world can unite with those of some of the most important but little known sages of recent times to envision a future in which we “take care of the cosmos” by becoming “fully human”.

 

Ouspensky, Italy, and Symbolon

My latest interview with Jeffrey Mishlove on his excellent Thinking Allowed site is on the life and work of P.D. Ouspensky, one of my heroes. I apologize for the echo effect on my voice; apparently it’s a problem with the acoustics in my living room. I can’t move so I will look for some other remedy. If anyone has any suggestions, please pass them on.

I’m heading off to Italy tomorrow for a brisk three-day book tour, promoting the Italian edition of Dark Star Rising: Magick and Power in the Age of Trump. It looks like quite an active itinerary. I suspect I’ll see as much of Rome as I can in the cab from the airport to the hotel and then to the interviews. Then there’s the train to Milan, and then one to Turin, where Nietzsche’s mind finally snapped and he was taken off to the caring but not particularly understanding ministrations of his sister. Poor Nietzsche.

At the end of the month I’ll be speaking about the lost knowledge of the imagination at Symbolon, a conference on symbols and symbolic thinking held in Gilching, Germany. I’ll be there with my friends and colleagues Rudiger Sunner, a filmmaker from Berlin, and the artist Martin Weyers, as well as many other people I look forward to meeting. It promises to be a good gathering – dare I say an Eranos for a new generation?

Discovering Swedenborg

Here’s the latest of my Thinking Allowed Interviews with Jeffrey Mishlove. This time we look at one of the most fascinating and influential figures in the western esoteric tradition, the Eighteenth Century scientist and spiritual explorer, Emanuel Swedenborg. Swedenborg influenced practically every important intellectual, cultural, and spiritual figure in the Nineteenth Century, from William Blake to Charles Baudelaire, Ralph Waldo Emerson to Honore Balzac – and that’s just for starters. In the interview, I try to do what I aim at in my book, Swedenborg: An Introduction to His Life and Ideas: to show that if you don’t know who Swedenborg is, you really should make an effort to get some idea of his importance, both in the history of ideas, and in our own attempts to make sense of life. He helped August Strindberg get through a bad patch and Helen Keller found joy and meaning in his work. That sounds like a pretty good endorsement.

Transcendent Functions, Peak Experiences, and a Different Way of Knowing

Here are links to two lectures I’ve given recently. One, on “Jung’s Search for Meaning,” was given for the Weekend University here in London last summer. The other, “A Different Way of Knowing,” is the first part of the three part seminar on Lost Knowledge of the Imagination I’ve been giving through Nura Learning. I imagine a lecture should speak for itself, but here’s the general idea: In the first I try to bring together Jung’s notion of the “transcendent function”   – the “lift” the psyche gets when the conscious and unconscious minds reach an agreement – with Maslow’s “peak experiences” and Colin Wilson’s Faculty X. In the second, I take the class through the first chapter in Lost Knowledge, trying to bring out exactly what a “different way of knowing” might be like. You should be able to take it from there.

Madame Blavatsky, P.D. Ouspensky, and Magical Politics

I’ve posted some video recordings of some recent talks on You Tube. I tweet about them when I post, but I’m not sure if everyone here sees this, so I thought it wouldn’t hurt to put the links together in one place. So, in chronological order:

Madame Blavatsky, The Mother of Modern Spirituality, Thomas Carlyle House.

(The amazon.com and amazon.co.uk links for the book.)

In Search of P.D. Ouspensky, Kensington Central Library.

(The amazon.com and amazon.co.uk links for the book.)

Dark Star Rising: Magick and Power in the Age of Trump, Conway Hall

(The amazon.com and amazon.co.uk links for the book)

An interview with me about Dark Star Rising for Rebel Wisdom.

For those in the London area, I’ll be talking about Jung, Maslow, and Colin Wilson in the context of Individuation, Self-Actualization, and getting “beyond the robot” at the Day on Meaning at Birkbeck College, University of London, this July 29th. Some tickets are still available.

My talk on Aleister Crowley for the Century Club 18 July is sold out. An encore is scheduled for September.

I’ll be giving the closing talk for the Decadence, Magic (K) and the Occult conference at Goldsmith’s College 20 July. My topic is “Occultism in the World Today” and will focus on all the strange occult politics I’ve been writing about of late.

On 9 August I’ll be giving a free talk at Watkins Bookshop on Dark Star Rising. I’ll post details when they’re available.