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Jung vs. Steiner

Discussing what Jung said of Rudolf Steiner, that he had “not the slightest use for him”, John David Ebert says this attitude sums up what is wrong with myth studies these days, and I would say it also points to what is wrong with the New Age. Ebert’s point was that people like Steiner aren’t read because they don’t conform to the Jungian tropes that Jung and Joseph Campbell made popular, and which have determined so much of countercultural thinking.

I would argue that while Jung’s influence was important in a stage of our culture reconnecting with its symbolic roots, that the future is moving past Jung, Campbell, and the New Age tropes that books and documentaries seem to recycle every year. In contrast I think we will see more development along the lines that Steiner anticipated–not back towards a romanticized and rationalized perennial philosophy, but forward towards a spiritual science and a transformation of symbolism. I think the tradition that comes down to us from another early psychoanalyst, Wilhelm Reich, is what is starting to bear the most progressive hope for our future, with many of the subjects that drove Reich insane (UFOs, bio-“energy”, chaotic systems, etc..) now becoming understandable.

This isn’t to dismiss the Jungian tradition or the previous generation of the New Age, but if we want to make New Age spirituality something more than the joke it is to most people, we need to move beyond the aesthetic experience of a “re-enchanted cosmos” to use Tarnas’s phrase, which does not disrupt or reform the temporal rhythms of capitalism, but only creates a space within them. It is time to give birth out of that space into a new kind of time, a new cosmology.

The New Age has to grow out of its womb of Jungian synchronistic time (which he considered acausal) and into something like what Charles Muses called resonant causality or chronotopology, a science of resonant meaning “production”– not a reduction to universal symbols, however grounding they can be as a womb or beginning. It seems like the counterculture has stopped short of thinking through and creating the new meanings we need and are just enjoying the feeling of that initial resonant energy that synchronicity symbolizes.

If we are ever to become more than a counter-culture, we are going to have to stop worshiping energy—which is basically a deification of a term that has always connoted what is already emergent or present— and confront the problem of power. We have to move past the “higher energy” that drugs and merely inward experience can induce, what the Indians called sattvic prakriti, which although is a balance of the other gunas or “energies”, essentially is just a road back into the womb– a dangerous problem the Indian mind has had with the world and its powers, according to Aurobindo, since the emergence of vedanta and until the Tantric revolution brought back the spiritual Power embraced by the original Vedic rishis. It is the great goddess Kali’s time right now and we have to embrace and transform her Shakti, which while it may bring a new energy is more accurately translated as “power”. The power not just to aesthetically accept the world as it is, but sing into it the voice of a higher future.