Jung, Nietzsche, Sartre: The Under-man (Part II)

I’m out of my body, please leave a message:

In the process of learning to read as a young kid, one of my favorite series quickly became Dan Greenberg’s The Zack Files. I can remember going through all kinds of imaginative tales, complete with wacky titles and even more adventurous ideas contained within. One of these incredible books, entitled I’m Out of My Body, Please Leave a Message (#7), begins as follows:


With its conversational style which reveals with utmost candor of Zack’s inner-most thoughts, thoughts which often resonated with my own curious questions, Greenberg’s writing without a doubt expands the mind and imagination of the young individual. In retrospect, I do not know where I would be today were it not for my encounter with The Zack Files. Without these short stories, would I have become as avid a reader as I am now? How might my life have been different? It is exceedingly hard to say.

To shift gears, a comment on one of Terence Blake’s recent posts (see here), pointed out the following:

I like the idea that thought is capable of thinking the absolute. I am just more of a Hillmanian who thinks that conceptualization is always secondary to a non-representational image. (Image not as representation but as experiential reality in its own right — image as presentation, nothing “re” about it). So I would almost put this absolute in the non-representational space of the Imaginal. The thing I can’t decide is whether to side with Jung or Hillman. Jung puts the non-imaginal archetype before the image, but Hillman thinks that this amounts to privileging some kind of abstract concept before the precision of the thing. Jung seemingly puts the concept first before the image, while Hillman does the opposite. It does seem that images are more precise than concepts. Maybe Hillman’s rejection of Jung putting the archetype before the archetype-image is kind of the same complaint one might have with Harman for privileging his unknowable, untouchable “objects” before their immanent expression? Or Badiou’s “matheme”? Lacan, too, derogated the Imaginary and privileged the Real as an unknowable gap or crack in the Symbolic order.

When I first read it, I found myself in this similarly awkward position. Which is the cart and which the horse? It is as though I want to believe Hillman’s imagination, and I think his take on Jung here is more or less appropriate, but nonetheless I still find something “unsettling” about his presentation…

Or, perhaps it is a matter of finding the proper style.

Watching several videos of Hillman, for instance, one is at once taken in by his evident wisdom and yet possibly repulsed slightly after a while by his … what? It is as though I call after a while and receive nothing but the answering machine: “Good day, I’m Dr. James Hillman, post-Jungian archetypal and renegade psychologist. I’m currently out of my body right now, please leave a message.”

The difficulty in answering this question seems to be one of the role of history. Does Hillman, for instance, know his place in history?

If Jung privileged the abstract concept before the precision of the thing, it is because he understood it to be a “psychological fact” that, upon encountering an archetypal situation (say, crossing a raging river in the jungle) we are already psychologically pre-conditioned by our ancestors in history. That is, we do actually respond accordingly to these archetypes and the abstract concept may be actual (indeed, more actual) in a way that the “precision of the thing” is not.

We must ask how much water these “myths” (…which myths?) hold after the dawn of post-modernism, after the collapse of the “mythic” as some suggest? Like the question Nietzsche could have posed to Jung: How fluid are these archetypes in history? As our everyday life has changed since the dawn of industrialization and global techno-capitalism, how strongly do the traces of these previous archetypes still impress on us? etc. Or, if the collective unconscious is like the sea at its darkest depths, what is the speed of the current down there?

Clearly, especially given our reading of Nietzsche’s Zarathustra in my last post (see here), we need something more fluid than Jung’s own account to reflect today’s technological society. And yet, I feel likewise that Hillman’s highly imaginative account is perhaps too fluid. My fear is of course that the body is left behind, and as such I believe the choice between “non-imaginal archetype” and “image” needs to be more or less deconstructed. This leaves us with the uniquely individual and affective body front and center. Neither/nor, or, both/and. Yes this, but also that.

As with all things “Jungian”, we are to try to seek a balance, and here it is a certain balance. Where exactly this balance lies depends upon the weight of the ends of the antimony. If the weight is equal, then the balance is the center. Yet, if the weight is not equal, then the balance is surely somewhat off-center. Perhaps I lean more towards Hillman than Jung himself, but now is the scale tilted too much in his direction?

I wish to come back to the Zack Files as a means of elucidating Hillman’s approach. With the question of astral projection and bodies in place, Zack asks his good friend Spencer a series of seemingly logical questions, to which Spencer responds with his imagination. I believe the same kind of exchange was had between Hillman and Wolfgang Giegerich, who is known for his critique of Archetypal Psychology at large.

A passing remark on Giegerich (see here) in an article by Michael Vannoy Adams reads:

Imagine my surprise when a few days later, as I was re-reading Wolfgang Giegerich’s criticism of Hillman’s imaginal psychology in The Soul’s Logical Life, I read this passage:

HILLMAN is probably the only one who was responsive to what was germinally inherent in the Jungian project. JUNG had said that he had been the only one who logically pursued the two problems that most interested FREUD. In the same way we can say that HILLMAN logically developed what JUNG had been most interested in. (1999: 104).

When I had first read The Soul’s Logical Life, I had marked this passage in pencil in the margin. There was, therefore, no doubt that the passage had previously impressed me. Was this a case of cryptomnesia? Or do Giegerich and I merely imagine Hillman in the same way? Does it matter? Does Hillman matter? If so, why? Giegerich does not say that what most interested Jung was the imagination and that it is Hillman alone who has logically pursued that interest. Perhaps because what most interests Giegerich and what he so logically pursues is the soul, he says that what Hillman pursues is also the soul. In Re-Visioning Psychology, Hillman does say that what interests him is “a psychology of soul,” but he immediately also says that what he bases that project on is “a psychology of image” (1975: xi). The very basis of Hillmanian psychology is the imagination.

Yes, Hillman of course matters quite a bit!!

In theory, though, it seems I fall somewhere between the approaches of these two, just as I try to fall halfway between Kierkegaard and Hegel (see here) if weighted more or less equally. Do they actually have equal weight? Can they in principle be weighed equally? We would have to conduct an experiment to say, but how? Or, perhaps a kind of chemical titration between these two ends is necessary.

In a post aptly entitled Leaving for the Wilderness: The Soul’s Attraction for the Wild (see here), Dr. Brad Olson accounts as follows:

One of the important differences between Giegerich and Hillman is the notion of intent. Both insist on a leave-taking, but Giegerich seems to require that the leaving be much more conscious and intentional: “The first determination of the notion is: the resolved intentionality, the passionate desire to find the unknown Other (the quarry), to apprehend and comprehend it, the will to relentlessly aim and shoot, to hit and penetrate, to kill”. Hillman is less insistent upon the active pursuit. He seems to suggest that one may be captivated or seduced by the soul’s presentation, and then simply be drawn away: “What we are talking about ‘seems to recede from us’ and ‘draws us after it’ (Goethe) in the seductive manner of the anima.

The imagery of “the quarry” here draws to mind the idea of entering-in-the-salt-mine which inspires and pervades throughout my project and development with-and-beyond Novalis.

Of note, Olson’s post captures much in way of the hypothesis I put forth called wilderness theology (see here). Moreover, his appeal to this “Goethean” science (see here), not ultimately unlike Feyerabend (who held Goethe in high esteem), resonates with thoughts here on fragmentation. In terms of substance, the idea of entensionality (see here), then hopes to rest in this very difficult in-between space of a “resolved intentionality” as Olson writes. It is quite nice to come across a post like this, as it reminds me that I am not (entirely) mad myself!

To carry on with the similarities, Hillman would likely be more receptive to the thought that “One does not enter the wilderness voluntarily”. Although, I diverge from Hillman as it is not by an account “creativity” or “imagination” that we are taken in, but rather by a more ruthless and immediate form of involuntariness, i.e. the Crisis commands. A “crisis of creativity” may well make up a significant part of this general Crisis, or maybe an outcome, but as the hypothesis goes … the category of Crisis nevertheless commands over and above much anything else.

In any case, here (not up there, but down here) I find myself closer to Giegerich’s Hegelianism (and the Logical movement of of the Soul) than Hillman’s more “Kierkegaardian” flavor of creativity. Bringing this back-and-forth back again to Jung, I have found here the work of Sartre’s existentialism to be helpful in counter-balancing what in the last post I called “Jung’s madness”. Insofar as Sartre and Nietzsche do share in an approach which may be deemed “existentialist”, I would like to see if I can bring them together in a more Unitive way as it concerns questions of this kind of “projection”.


Luckily, I  have at my disposal the remains of the “Danish projection debate” which prove helpful in an attempt to work past the limitations of Jung with a new Nietzschean impulse.

An attempt to integrate these fragments, the work of Dutch theologian and psychologist of religion Fokke Sierksma comes into view. Sierksma, like myself, insists upon a more scientific approach to theology. And, like Sartre, he was active in war resistance. Operationally, his notion of “religious projection” seems to resonate well with entensionality.

In a series of posts entitled Jung of Sartre (see herehere, and here), a few shaky translation fragments read:

Rodenko recognized in Sartre’s Being and Nothingness (1943) a new orientation to life that are ethical and situational in nature. The man stood on the threshold of a new ethical era, now the value range of traditional Christianity had become an empty convention. But Sierksma did not believe. ”We have only psychology,” he wrote in Notes to Debrot Cola . ”Even more (worse) everything we touch turns to psychology. And Rodenko’s breakouts to a new country bring him only in a different area of psychology, it is not as strong as the grazed area that now commonly in use. ” [...]

Who in those years the religion of the demise wild preserve, clashed not only Freud, but also encountered the dilemma between Jung and Sartre, in other words, between the God of the psychological unconscious against a godless existentialism of self-contained self. Sierksma saw the impossible nature of this dilemma. Sartre had in him the ultimate consequence drawn from humanism and the psychology of the unconscious whole condensing into a en-soi . That man would be forever freed of religion, but it is also deprived of the dynamism and hope. Jung, however, gave one last hope that a synthesis could exist between the en-soi and pour-soi: ”…. a way, God knows where,” wrote Sierksma. [...]

Again, because after the death of God, the metaphysical system of guilt and punishment for good seemed settled. Existential responsibility also meant potential debt. And because no man is perfect, every man is essentially guilty. A real redemption is not possible, hell is always the other. Between these Sartrean vision of the destiny of man and the religious psychology of Jung was a wide gap, which Fokke Sierksma formed the starting point for the development of his thought. It was Jung or Sartre, a middle seemed not to exist. [...]

“At that crisis Jung had had itself also contributed by the religious consciousness disconnecting of theology and almost completely to anchor in psychology and anthropology.

The resonances here with my posts on crisis, especially revelatory anchoring (see here), etc. are quite astonishing.

Moreover, the reference to F. Schleiermacher in the comments also marks a very welcome voice to the discussion which is shared in my articles on anchoring and revelation. If there is no escaping the Wilderness, if the self carries dark night with itself, then there is no dilemma of either Jung or Sartre. One cuts a level before the dilemma: The (“existential”) Crisis of choosing between them is itself what is to be carried by the self, as the self projects itself with this entensionality in mind.

Sierksma furthers this idea of “projection as a perceptual grid” (see here), on page 253 of Van A. Harvey’s Feuerbach and contemporary projection theories:


In the chapter entitled Religion and the need for transference, the author brings in two quotes by anthropologist Ernest Becker, suggesting on page 302-3:

“Projection is necessary and desirable for self-fulfillment. Otherwise man is overwhelmed by his loneliness and separation and negated by the very burden of his own life” [...]  The issue for Becker, then, is not whether there will be a religious transference but “What is creative projection? What is life-enhancing illusion?” [...] “The most that any one of us can seem to do is to fashion something — an object or ourselves — and drop it into the confusion, make an offering of it, so to speak, to the life force.”

While tentatively I may disagree with the author’s conclusions (i.e. questioning on Feuerbachian grounds that “religious” projection understood as such is necessary/healthy), these disagreements are (a) mostly a matter of our semantics, which are (b) likely born out of our respective personal experiences with and attitudes towards what we understand as “religion” — where I am like Becker more “sympathetic” than Feuerbach.

In absence of a life-long study of Buddhist practices (especially those of a more Tibetan style), which in the book I do not believe were given a fair treatment, I believe that Becker like Sierksma finds a fairly reasonable working balance on the question of projection.

The Under-man (?)

The existential and indeed Sartrean elements of Jung shine through, sometimes with the help of Paul Tillich, but I believe are best captured in a brief article by Dr. Walter A. Shelburne (see here):


Thus, to “occupy” the very place of Crisis in its situational context, i.e. to be able to effectively intervene in Crisis, one must be able to do r otherwise enact the “angelic” and “miraculous”: To medi(t)ate, to performatively deliver messages beyond and before any new “postality” enters the mise-en-scene, to immanently communicate (as in Michel Serres) between the various parties involved, translating bodily to and from the language-games that they understand.

Serres writes:

« Il ou elle n’a plus le même corps, la même espérance de vie, n’habite plus le même espace, ne communique plus de la même façon, ne perçoit plus le même monde extérieur, ne vit plus dans la même nature ; né sous péridurale et de naissance programmée, ne redoute plus la même mort, sous soins palliatifs. N’ayant plus la même tête que celle de ses parents, il ou elle connaît autrement. »

Some-times, this means to come down and intervene as if from above and without, as if the Crisis itself belongs to a lower state of consciousness which may soon be able to be placed below the state of the Other. This is the movement of the Under-man, the I who under-stands or otherwise stands under so as to support the Other who is outside the Self. Other-times, especially when the Crisis is personal and within you perhaps at your very limit (here, let me say the decision “Jung or Sartre”), this means to intervene as if from below, as if the Crisis itself belongs to a higher state of self-realization that will soon be integrated within your personal unconscious. To self-overcome: This is the movement of the Over-man, the I who over-stands the Other who is in this case inside the Self.

To be sure, the German word Über- seems to capture both the movements of the Over-man and Under-man (…in passing, I must note not to confuse this with Untermensch), only if understood as a function primarily of various intensity. I applaud Walter Kaufmann for largely keeping it untranslated. Both of these Over-and-Under movements allow us to “get over” Crisis in a certain lower-case “o” sense of “over”, but they are not always simple movements of the “Over-man” alone whose work is often highly visible and excessive — for there is also the rhythm of the Under-man who by contrast often acts invisibly and in great humility.

There are as it were a plurality of ways to “get over” your human, all too human self. You must find what works for you.

With this in mind, Jung’s “suspicion” remains but for reasons he did not suspect: Zarathustra’s failure, when he returned to the village from the mountaintop, was that he was speaking from his capacity and authority as Over-man. He could not variously play the role of Under-man as well. Can you teach Über, can you really teach a villager intensity so quickly? Or, must you teach with intensity at just the right level? I find Hillman’s intensity lacking on this level in particular. Now, Jung’s failure, by contrast and perhaps in jest, was that he was actually mad.

Indeed: Thank God I am a Jungian and not Jung! And, for that matter, thank God I am a Nietzschean and not Nietzsche! The Will to Power is a one, two, ten, fifty, hundred, thousand, million … n-way street of Multiplication, identified in the hierarchies which constitute society.

As such, we cannot be so fast to tie in the Will to Power to the world of the Over-man alone! His grandiosity risks merely covering up with a bandage what lies below. Let us attune our ear to the combinations of these quieter rhythms in Crisis. This “post-human” trans-valuation of all values therefore needs also include the Under-man and the whole sheaf-like (see here) continuum ranging from Over-and-Under. Sometimes, there is much Power in meeting the Other at their level, so that the collective may too rise above Crisis.

To attend (entend) the Other on their level, when I am the Other (Rimbaud). To attend (entend) the Other on their level, when I am not the Other. To attend (entend) the Other well before you must “encounter” the Other ethically (Levinas). To be able to attend (entend) to Crises in the psyche, point blank. To attend (entend) the Other on their level, where ever this level may be.

Please receive this post as my “offering to the life force”…

Works cited

Harvey, Van Austin. Feuerbach and the interpretation of religion. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995. Print.

Hillman, James. Re-visioning psychology. New York: Harper Perennial, 1977. Print.

Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm, Walter Arnold Kaufmann, and R. J. Hollingdale. The will to power. Vintage Books ed. New York: Vintage Books, 19681967. Print.

Sartre, Jean. Being and nothingness: an essay on phenomenological ontology. New York: Philosophical Library, 1956. Print.

Sierksma, Fokke. The gods as we shape them. London: Routledge & K. Paul, 1960. Print.

Related Posts:

Leave a Reply