On Psychological and Visionary Art: Notes from C. G. Jung’s Lecture on Gérard de Nerval’s Aurélia

In 1902, Jung quit the Burghölzli sanitorium in Zurich and attended lectures by Pierre Janet in Paris at the Collège de France. From Janet’s famous cases of Lucie, Marcelle, and Justine, Jung acquired the notion of charting a divided self into numbered mental states. ~Craig Stephenson, On Psychological and Visionary Art, Page 48

Jung came to evaluate Janet’s position as too rationalistic, and he credited Sigmund Freud and Josef Breuer with the first attempts to abreact the blocked affect and integrate the repressed contents into consciousness, rather than working merely to excise or exorcise symptoms from the unconscious sufferer. ~Craig Stephenson, On Psychological and Visionary Art, Page 50

Jung’s 1902 trip to Paris was one of the happiest times of his life in terms of free inquiry. ~Craig Stephenson, On Psychological and Visionary Art, Page 50

And he [Jung] read French novels “in order to approach closer to the French spirit, outwardly so foreign, inwardly so familiar to me.” ~Craig Stephenson, On Psychological and Visionary Art, Page 50

Emma Jung-Rauschenbach, who was far better read in French history and literature than her husband, may have encouraged Jung in his reading of Nerval, although there is no reference to Nerval in the letters they exchanged while Jung stayed in Paris.  ~Craig Stephenson, On Psychological and Visionary Art, Page 51

Jung became convinced that psychiatry functioned at its best in a middle ground between science and history, in service of the whole human being.  ~Craig Stephenson, On Psychological and Visionary Art, Page 52

In his early work at the Burghölzli sanitorium, Jung worked with psychotics, and as late as 1956, lectured to psychiatrists on schizophrenia. ~Craig Stephenson, On Psychological and Visionary Art, Page 52

Jung judged [Alfred] Kubin’s The Other Side as a richly recorded account of the artist’s fantasy life with which the man perhaps had not engaged consciously enough; Kubin had not rendered the fantasies meaningful.  ~Craig Stephenson, On Psychological and Visionary Art, Page 54

Jung depicts the artist as inclined to be satisfied with the aesthetic formulation of the experience of the unconscious, but the person may not understand the formulation enough to act on its moral demands.  ~Craig Stephenson, On Psychological and Visionary Art, Page 55

Jung (praised [Alfred] Kubin’s Dream City without irony: “It is seen as an artist would see it, who was properly trained not to think about the things he sees in order not to disturb the absolute form and surface of the object; he saw the surface of the collective unconscious most accurately.” ~Craig Stephenson, On Psychological and Visionary Art, Page 55

Aurélia depicts the protagonist witnessing creation and the evolution of life on earth, as if he has descended dangerously into what Jung characterizes as “the abyss of prehuman ages, or … a superhuman world of contrasting light and darkness … a primordial experience which surpasses man’s understanding and to which in his weakness he may easily succumb.”  ~Craig Stephenson, On Psychological and Visionary Art, Page 56

When the soul hovers uncertainly between life and dream, between mental disarray and the reappearance of cold reflection, it is in religious belief that one must seek solace.  ~Gerard de Nerval, On Psychological and Visionary Art, Page 56

The German poet Heine, who counted Nerval as the only one of his Paris friends with whom he experienced any genuine emotional kinship and the only successful translator of his work from German into any language, described Nerval as “pure soul rather than man, the soul of an angel” ~Craig Stephenson, On Psychological and Visionary Art, Page 58

In fact, Aurélia can be regarded as a precursor of The Red Book. Both Aurélia and The Red Book are literary vehicles written for a psychological purpose.  ~Craig Stephenson, On Psychological and Visionary Art, Page 61

Dr. Jung advises Jung the writer that to heal Jung the man from a potential psychosis, he should narrate the visions of a protagonist named “I.”  ~Craig Stephenson, On Psychological and Visionary Art, Page 61

It is particularly moving to consider Jung playing all four roles [in The Red Book]: doctor, writer, man, and fictional protagonist. ~Craig Stephenson, On Psychological and Visionary Art, Page 62

Jung recorded his inner life in a series of notebooks known as the Black Books. He transferred and transformed some of this material into a more formal presentation that became The Red Book: Liber Novus.  ~Craig Stephenson, On Psychological and Visionary Art, Page 62

As the text and images [Red Book] evolved, Jung the writer, like Nerval, took up the symbols and literary conventions of Virgil’s Aeneid, Dante’s Divine Comedy, Colonna’s Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, and Goethe’s Faust.  ~Craig Stephenson, On Psychological and Visionary Art, Page 62

The 1959 calligraphic transcription of The Red Book breaks off with Jung acknowledging that he left his protagonist and his book in order to study the imaginal inherent in alchemy. ~Craig Stephenson, On Psychological and Visionary Art, Page 62

At the time of its publication in English, Jung’s Psychology and Alchemy was praised as both an important explanation of the practice of psychotherapy and a lexicon of symbolism that is a key to Western culture and language.  ~Craig Stephenson, On Psychological and Visionary Art, Page 62

What better guide for Jung in these explorations than Nerval, with his medical history of psychotic episodes and his lucid, syncretic art? Except, of course, that Nerval did not survive his descent into Hell.  ~Craig Stephenson, On Psychological and Visionary Art, Page 63

Every great work of art is objective and impersonal, and yet profoundly moving. And that is also why the personal life of the artist is at most a help or a hindrance, but is never essential to his creative task. He may go the way of the Philistine, a good citizen, a fool, or a criminal. His personal career may be interesting and inevitable, but it does not explain his art. ~Carl Jung, On Psychological and Visionary Art, Page 63

I shall have to leave much for discussion. I can only imply things, because the material is of extraordinary magnitude, and mainly I would like to let the material speak for itself first, while keeping my own interpretations in the background. ~Carl Jung, On Psychological and Visionary Art, Page 63

I am happy with the convictions I have acquired, and I compare this series of ordeals [Red Book] I have undergone to what, in the eyes of the ancients, was represented by the idea of a descent into Hell. ~Carl Jung, On Psychological and Visionary Art, Page 64

As for Jung, [Northrop] Frye considered him to be the most comprehensive guide not to Romanticism as a movement but instead to the myth of romance itself.  ~Craig Stephenson, On Psychological and Visionary Art, Page 67

Sometimes a differential diagnosis as between tomfoolery and creativity is difficult to make, and it happens again and again that the two are confused.  ~Carl Jung, On Psychological and Visionary Art, Page 69

Jung emphasizes that in any myth of rebirth, the scrap heap outside the city walls contains the possibilities for a society’s future survival. ~Craig Stephenson, On Psychological and Visionary Art, Page 69

Onkel said that de Nerval had real talent, but would not accept the ANIMA (his soul) and so he killed himself. ~Katy Cabot, Jung My Mother an I, Page 470

My fantasy plunges me into a tormenting chaos, and I can regain some measure of calm thought from [philosophy]’s icy thoughts—a seeming paradox that will have to be accepted as fact. I read philosophy with passionate curiosity, the way one reads novels, eager each time to find out “how it will turn out.” Nevertheless for years my essential attitude has been one of profound resignation.  ~Alfred Kubin, On Psychological and Visionary Art, Page 54

The book was written when I was thirty years old, out of an inner compulsion and psychological necessity. I am more interested in the illustrations than in the text, which I wrote down in an extraordinary state of mind that was literally comparable to intoxication. I felt as though actually possessed of true clairvoyance. My procedure for the fifty-one drawings was, as usual, a carefully considered one. ~Alfred Kubin, On Psychological and Visionary Art, Page 53

The extraordinary impoverishment of introverted thinking is compensated by a wealth of unconscious facts. The more consciousness is impelled by the thinking function to confine itself within the smallest and emptiest circle—which seems, however, to contain all the riches of the gods—the more the unconscious fantasies will be enriched by a multitude of archaic contents, a veritable “pandaemonium” of irrational and magical figures, whose physiognomy will accord with the nature of the function that will supersede the thinking function as the vehicle of life. If it should be the intuitive function, then the “other side” will be viewed through the eyes of a Kubin. ~Carl Jung, On Psychological and Visionary Art, Page 54

We should do well, I think, to bear clearly in mind the full consequences of this reduction of art to personal factors, and see where it leads. The truth is that it deflects our attention from the psychology of the work of art and focuses it on the psychology of the artist. The latter presents a problem that cannot be denied, but the work of art exists in its own right and cannot be got rid of by changing it into a personal complex.  ~Carl Jung, On Psychological and Visionary Art, Page 63

In passing, Jung notes that in 1588, the alchemist H. Reusner identifies this torch bearing tree-woman, this philosophical tree personified in its feminine numen, as Pandora. All this is to say, a century apart, Nerval and Jung read the same enigmatic text, and from the scrap heap, they each retrieve the same name.  ~Craig Stephenson, On Psychological and Visionary Art, Page 69

Jung’s lecture on Aurélia rewards study now for what it argues about Nerval as visionary artist and what it reveals about The Red Book as Jung’s articulation of the symbolic in modern thought.  ~Craig Stephenson, On Psychological and Visionary Art, Page 69

During his psychosis the real Aurélia appears to have died, so that his last chance of connecting the unconscious with reality, and of assimilating its archetypal contents, vanished. The poet ended by suicide. The MS of Aurélia was found on his body.  ~Carl Jung, On Psychological and Visionary Art, Page 75

Gérard de Nerval is the pseudonym of Gérard Labrunie, born 23 May 1808, died 25 January 1853. He published some beautiful lyric poems, the so-called Vers dorés [Golden Verses]; as well, he translated many poems by Klopstock, Goethe, and Heine.  ~Carl Jung, On Psychological and Visionary Art, Page 76

The text Aurélia opens with the following sentence: “Dream is a second life.” And from here, the author immediately goes on to speak of what nowadays we call the unconscious: “Little by little, the dim cavern is suffused with light and, emerging from its shadowy depths, the pale figures who dwell in limbo come into view, solemn and still.  ~Carl Jung, On Psychological and Visionary Art, Page 77

From my experience, dreams without lysis are extremely rare, and I have reached the assumption—which I am not proclaiming as a universal truth—that there is something fatal about such dreams. ~Carl Jung, On Psychological and Visionary Art, Page 79

The wings of a thousand colors evoke the alchemical idea of cauda pavonis, which for its part, represents a colorful unfolding, a breaking open. The same idea appears in Goethe: “In colorful refraction, we find life.” ~Carl Jung, On Psychological and Visionary Art, Page 79

This being, with its thousand colors, with its obviously lavish play of colors, represents a complete unfolding, because the Self wishes to realize itself, namely, in the abundance of its qualities and its colors. It can only do so when the man, the human being, gives it actions to perform. ~Carl Jung, On Psychological and Visionary Art, Page 79

If we give it nothing to do, or nothing more to do, then the Self remains invisible, imprisoned inside itself and robbed of its impetus. It cannot unfold anymore, as we have withdrawn the necessary basis, and as a consequence it turns into the Angel of Melancholy. ~Carl Jung, On Psychological and Visionary Art, Page 79

Melancholy supplies a striking image for this condition. 13 She is indeed a depression, a weighing down, and to be even more precise, from the head to the deeper regions of the body. All life, so to speak, pulls itself back into the depths of the body. ~Carl Jung, On Psychological and Visionary Art, Page 79

For Gérard, the Orient is the Land of the Unconscious (as we would say), the land of the inner life. He especially associates a lot of mystical ideas with the Orient.  ~Carl Jung, On Psychological and Visionary Art, Page 81

Hecate is also the Gorgon, and that indicates the other aspect of the meeting at the Trivia: namely, the petrification, the imprisonment and torpidity in schizophrenia. So, like Lot’s wife and Eurydice, the author begins to look back and to go back.  ~Carl Jung, On Psychological and Visionary Art, Page 82

Golden Serenity, come!

You, most secret, sweetest

anticipation of the pleasure of death! ~Nietzsche, On Psychological and Visionary Art, Page 82

The route appeared to lead ever upwards as the star grew ever larger. Then, standing there with my arms outstretched, I awaited the moment at which my soul would separate from my body, magnetically attracted into the ray of the star. ~Gerard de Nerval, On Psychological and Visionary Art, Page 82

He does not find the grandfather there but—following the matriarchal rule—the granduncle, the “maternal uncle.” Lorelei is depicted only as an image, but a living maiden with the ominous name of Marguerite is also present.  ~Carl Jung, On Psychological and Visionary Art, Page 84

On the wall are the clock, the circle, and the bird that actually represents the soul of the ancestor or the matriarchal uncle.  ~Carl Jung, On Psychological and Visionary Art, Page 84

There is an old Persian legend of Gayomard that tells of his [Gayomard’s] blood pouring forth into the earth as seven metals. But [to Nerval], this fall into the earth seems a descent into the matter of the brain. This is well worth noting.  ~Carl Jung, On Psychological and Visionary Art, Page 85

“Come to me, you good husbandman”; or “I call to you, Dame Isis, and he who comes with you, Agathos Daimon, who dwells in total darkness.”  As I can only briefly explain, this darkness is the blackness in the eye’s pupil; it is also the black Egyptian earth and the black Isis. ~Carl Jung, On Psychological and Visionary Art, Page 85

Our beautiful German name, Elisabeth, derives from the language of Babylon: Eli si beti = our God is Seven (Father, Mother = Sun and Moon and the five planetary children). ~Carl Jung, On Psychological and Visionary Art, Page 90

Here Gérard de Nerval actually describes an essential attitude—namely, that of truthfulness to oneself and to one’s own simplicity.  ~Carl Jung, On Psychological and Visionary Art, Page 93

As everybody knows, one never sees the sun in one’s dreams, even though one is often aware of a light far more luminous.  ~Gerard de Nerval, On Psychological and Visionary Art, Page 94

“‘So it’s true!’ I exclaimed with elation. ‘We are immortal and retain the images of the world in which we once lived. What a joy to realize that everything we have loved will always exist around us! … I was tired of living!!’  ~Gerard de Nerval, On Psychological and Visionary Art, Page 89

The void,’ he said, ‘does not exist in the usual sense of the term; but the earth is itself a material body whose soul is made up of the sum total of minds. Matter can no more die than can the mind, but it can be modified for good or evil. Our past and our future are intertwined. We live in our race, and our race lives in us.’  ~Gerard de Nerval, On Psychological and Visionary Art, Page 89-90

This was the end of a personality [Nerval] who had never understood how to prize open the narrow circle of the personal “I” and grant admission to the shadow, that ambiguous herald of yet another order of things. ~Carl Jung, On Psychological and Visionary Art, Page 101

if the unconscious has already adopted the aspect of the Gorgon, then you can only liberate the genius when you cut off the Gorgon’s head. Then it springs forth again. ~Carl Jung, On Psychological and Visionary Art, Page 107

The deeper we dig beneath the mental illness, [the more] we get into those layers where restoration is constantly at work. Life never goes under. It is never lost. ~Carl Jung, On Psychological and Visionary Art, Page 107

[Then one] can take a firm position only when one has accepted the shadow beforehand. Only then can one take on the anima problem. The shadow that arises is swollen by the anima and by whatever else comes from behind, whatever the anima brings with it. ~Carl Jung, On Psychological and Visionary Art, Page 108

Aestheticism is the literary original sin. One doesn’t let the whole person speak, one doesn’t participate, one shoves it away. Thus everything is only aesthetic. ~Carl Jung, On Psychological and Visionary Art, Page 109

There are people who use psychology only to get a label to attach to things. Then they are done. Then it just belongs to psychology. One must never forget, psychology is only a stammering stopgap measure, so that one is able to talk about life at all. ~Carl Jung, On Psychological and Visionary Art, Page 109

It is a proper schizophrenia [Nerval’s], viewed clinically, medically; but, you see, if he is in there, for these people [sic] it is of course different. We believe that many mentally ill persons are unhappy. Not at all! They don’t want to get out at all.  ~Carl Jung, On Psychological and Visionary Art, Page 112

The manuscript of Aurélia was found on the corpse of the author [Nerval] who had, on a cold January night, committed suicide by hanging himself with a corset-string on a sewer grating on the bank of the Seine. ~Carl Jung, On Psychological and Visionary Art, Page 115

Who was Aurélia? His [Nerval] perception: madness, believes he had created a Beatrice for himself! Self-absorption. Writer’s mania. ~Carl Jung, On Psychological and Visionary Art, Page 115

Up until this moment, he [Nerval] had been going through his life without having a room of his own. His individual existence was a mere assumption, not yet a fact. ~Carl Jung, On Psychological and Visionary Art, Page 116

Only in our actions do we appear. The Self wishes to realize itself in the abundance of its colors, which is only possible if we lend it actions. If this does not happen or no longer happens the Self remains imprisoned within us and it turns into the Angel of Melancholy. In melancholy nothing happens anymore—with the exception of suicide, concentration in the stomach, inhibition of all life procedures. ~Carl Jung, On Psychological and Visionary Art, Page 116

Hecate at the three-way crossroad is also the Gorgon. This relates to the petrification, the imprisonment, and the torpidity of schizophrenia. ~Carl Jung, On Psychological and Visionary Art, Page 119

So like Lot’s wife and Eurydice, the author [Nerval] looks back. He does not go forward into life, but backward out of life. ~Carl Jung, On Psychological and Visionary Art, Page 119

The stream of metal (chemical diversity) can be compared to the Spiritus vitae (= Mercurius). But this fall leads—so to speak—into the brain. (Schizophrenia. Brain matter!)  ~Carl Jung, On Psychological and Visionary Art, Page 123

His [Nerval] condition improves, and he is finally discharged from the sanitorium.—But one fine day he sees a bird that starts speaking, which reminds him of his vision. On the same day he falls down a flight of stairs, he becomes ill, and his deliria begin anew. ~Carl Jung, On Psychological and Visionary Art, Page 129

We may well be approaching that era when science, as predicted, having accomplished its entire cycle of synthesis and analysis, of belief and negation, will be able to purify itself and usher forth the marvelous city of the future from chaos and ruin. ~Gerard de Nerval, On Psychological and Visionary Art, Page 131

The idea has often occurred to me that at certain crucial junctures in life, this or that Spirit from the external world suddenly takes on the bodily shape of an ordinary person [Aurélia!] and then acts or attempts to act on us without that person ever having been aware of it or remembering it.  ~Carl Jung, On Psychological and Visionary Art, Page 83

Jung’s lecture on Aurélia rewards study now for what it argues about Nerval as visionary artist and what it reveals about The Red Book as Jung’s articulation of the symbolic in modern thought.  ~Craig Stephenson, On Psychological and Visionary Art, Page 69