Why Carl Jung gets his kicks asphyxiating Arab boys

Jung recounts an extraordinary dream he had during a visit to North Africa.

I dreamt that I was in an Arab city, and as in most such cities there was a citadel, a casbah. The city was situated in a broad plain, and had a wall all around it. The shape of the wall was square, and there were four gates. The casbah in the interior of the city was surrounded by a wide moat (which is not the way it really is in Arab countries). I stood before a wooden bridge leading over the water to a dark, horseshoe-shaped portal, which was open. Eager to see the citadel from the inside also, I stepped out on the bridge. When I was about halfway across it, a handsome, dark Arab of aristocratic, almost royal bearing came toward me from the gate. I knew that this youth in the white burnoose was the resident prince of the citadel. When he came up to me, he attacked me and tried to knock me down.

We wrestled. In the struggle we crashed against the railing; it gave way and both of us fell into the moat, where he tried to push my head under water to drown me. No, I thought, this is going too far. And in my turn I pushed his head under water. I did so although I felt great admiration for him; but I did not want to let myself be killed. I had no intention of killing him; I wanted only to make him unconscious and incapable of fighting.

Then the scene of the dream changed, and he was with me in a large vaulted octagonal room in the center of the citadel. The room was all white, very plain and beautiful. Along the light-colored marble walls stood low divans, and before me on the floor lay an open book with black letters written in magnificent calligraphy on milky-white parchment. It was not Arabic script; rather, it looked to me like the Uigurian script of West Turkestan, which was familiar to me from the Manichaean fragments from Turfan. I did not know the contents, but nevertheless I had the feeling that this was “my book,” that I had written it. The young prince with whom I had just been wrestling sat to the right of me on the floor. I explained to him that now that I had overcome him he must read the book. But he resisted. I placed my arm around his shoulders and forced him, with a sort of paternal kindness and patience, to read the book. I knew that this was absolutely essential, and at last he yielded.

In this dream, the Arab youth was the double of the proud Arab who had ridden past us without a greeting. As an inhabitant of the casbah he was a figuration of the self, or rather, a messenger or emissary of the self. For the casbah from which he came was a perfect mandala: a citadel surrounded by a square wall with four gates. His attempt to kill me was an echo of the motif of Jacob’s struggle with the angel; he was to use the language of the Bible like an angel of the Lord, a messenger of God who wished to kill men because he did not know them. Actually, the angel ought to have had his dwelling in me. But he knew only angelic truth and understood nothing about man. Therefore he first came forward as my enemy; however, I held my own against him. In the second part of the dream I was the master of the citadel; he sat at my feet and had to learn to understand my thoughts, or rather, learn to know man.

A google search revealed that there are post-colonial readings of this (self-confessedly orientalist) dream: his alterity is the orient, the unconscious spiritual realm, projected onto the eastern man. And in this way his metaphysics is given birth: as a colonial act of violence against the east.

I think it’s going too far to view the dream in such political terms. Arguably, the politicisation of Jung’s dream is also an act of violence, the forced valuation of the Swissman’s headspace according to an equally extra-physical form of capitalism (post-colonial capital).

What exists, indisputably, the core of Jung’s dream are two things: 1) spiritual archetypes and distinctions from his own valuative system, including his own reflections on otherness and 2) Jung’s body in relation to Arab bodies. He himself makes a great deal of his unconscious perception of otherness from the Arab: this is why the (archetype of the) “other” appears to him in Arab garb, utilizing his emotions and preconceptions. He admits to an orientalism up front: Jung would (probably) admit that the “other” would take a different form for someone raised without his particular turn of the century Swiss background.

Orientalism is not the point: rather, orientalism and otherness are the red herring. There is no otherness, in reality: no otherness for Jung. He doesn’t really see Arabs as different — that’s an intellectual facade. Otherness is simply part of his system of valuation. The social otherness he reflects upon (his self-analysis of his feelings of difference from the Arabs, from the primitive man): this is just as much a part of his valuative system as his typology of the self and his archetypes.

“Otherness” (both social and archetypal) arises from his own body’s sexual arousal, in attraction to Arab bodies. Arousal comes first: “otherness” (supposedly unconscious orientalist perception and the dual spiritual archetype of the “other”) follows as a valuative (symbolic) manifestation of his attraction.

Jung’s physical attraction then manifests symbolically as a meta-fetish — for it divides itself within the symbolic plane, reflecting its own birth by a further doubling, symbol-to-symbol reflecting flesh-to-symbol: doubling of unconscious perceived social otherness (the symbol of external otherness, masquerading as a physical otherness), versus the spiritual “other” of the selfhood. This doubling is the angel wrestling with the prophet: attraction, thrown into a purely symbolic loop of the sign of the external and the sign of the internal, becomes violence. Jung’s sex game: it’s just a bit of fun, holding the Arab under water, not to kill, just to subjugate — one sign holding the breath of the other. It’s foreplay: it’s symbolism against symbolism, there are no real bodies here. Sexuality becomes a closed loop of sign against sign.

He is right: the Arab and Jung are two sides of the same coin. But he is wrong: they are not aspects of his self — they are fetishized (derivative) capital, valuation formed of his repressed sexual attraction.

Jung’s otherness is inauthentic in the sense that it is purely symbolic, not physical. He is unencumbered positive Aryan libido, expressing itself via the split valuation of social/spiritual alterity.

Thus the dream is a happy one, doubly happy: he reaches violent (symbolic) climax, via the asphyxiation game. And the Arab is subdued — coaxed into a further act of fellatio against Jung’s phallus (his book, his model of spiritual reality, its “milky-white” pages suggestive of the second climax). Importantly, there is no “other” (social or spiritual) to tame here: rather, there is a closed loop of the Jungian symbolic order (not just his spiritual archetypes, but his self-consciousness of social otherness), in doubled up, self-pleasure.

My situation is different, much more like Freud’s (or Rushdie’s, for that matter). Freud, as an Austrian Jew, truly possesses a physical other — that then informs (via totem and fetish) the capitalism of his text. You can find this physical other through his work (most explicitly in his re-reading of Moses), which can only really be understood an Oedipal radicalization of Kabbalah. A precondition for true, physical orientalization is the possession of oriental blood, the possession of a physical birthright (a royal birthmark) that threatens/is worshipped/is overcome (that influences).

This allows an entirely different configuration to exist. The Jungian equation is “positive physical attraction = value of split social/spiritual otherness”. The Freudian inference is “negative physical other, part of me, yet not part of me -> castration of the ancestral line’s influence through radical (symbolic) differentiation (while becoming the father, all that time)”. The Tailorite inference proceeds along this inference, but with a successor series of moments (annotated by Freud and Bloom): an initial ignorance of physical difference and of ancestry, an awareness of the father-line, worship of this tradition as perfect, alternating with an intermediate, homoerotic paranoid fear of the ancestral tradition as symbolic manifestation of a “pure” other, distinct from his own mixed identity (paranoia is heightened when external signs of “otherness” remind the subject of his own divided physical self, neither here nor there).


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