Every Thought Leads to Infinity

This is a little after the fact, but here is the abstract from a presentation I did at the International Society for Psychological and Social Approaches to Psychosis, New Zealand/Australia annual conference, August 2012 in Auckland, New Zealand.

Every Thought Leads to Infinity: Visionary Experience and Creative Illness in Carl G. Jung’s Red Book and Philip K. Dick’s Exegesis

Jung’s Red Book and Dick’s Exegesisare private journals that both men worked on for years during periods of visionary experience. The recent publications of these books illuminate Jung’s and Dick’s experiences as well as provide a key to understanding their later books that grew out of their inner work. For both Jung and Dick, their early interests and writings prefigured their later visionary experiences.

Jung’s early interests in spiritualism and archetypal symbols in mental illness later manifested in his own life as what he called his “confrontation with the unconscious.” Through great effort, he was able to use these experiences to fuel what he called the process of individuation, the journey of “becoming who one is.”

Dick’s work focused on the themes of “what is real,” and “what is human.” He commented that, at the time of his visionary experiences, it was as if he had become a character in one of his own novels in which the very fabric of reality was in question.  His later books explore spontaneous visionary experience through the lenses of mental illness, drugs, and spirituality.

Both men exhaustively researched the writing of philosophers, mystics, and scientists (as well as turning to objective analysis of their own writings) in an attempt to find some reference point for their own experiences. This presentation will look at the lives of CGJ and PKD and their journals, The Red Book and the Exegesis, through a structure of the childhood struggle to become who one is, a preoccupation phase in which their interests deepened, but also set the stage for a crisis phase of visionary experience, and then an occupation phase in which they integrated interests and crisis into path of occupation that continues to influence individuals and society.

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