I recently wrote a short Amazon review for Peter Kingsley’s Catafalque: Carl Jung and the End of Humanity. I have been working on a longer review, but I’ll post this for now. This book is a great tapestry of wisdom, weaving together the work of Peter Kingsley, Carl Jung, and Henry Corbin.
This book reads like a mystery, following the path of Peter Kingsley as he follows the paths of Carl Jung and Henry Corbin. We think of the mystery genre as starting with a death and then a puzzle to be solved. The word “catafalque” represents a framework supporting the coffin of a distinguished person, so there is an element of a crime mystery to the book. Kingsley’s subtitle “The End of Humanity,” tells us that perhaps the victim of the crime is humanity and the plot of the mystery is to find out who killed humanity. There is another mystery genre, older than the crime mystery, and that is the pursuit of the ancient wisdom mysteries. One entered those mysteries through initiation, and this book is a kind of initiation into wisdom.
The book is published in two volumes: the first is the text, itself, the second volume is endnotes. I am enough of a geek that I would carry these two volumes around and read them side by side. This gave the act of reading both a scholarly and a sacred aspect. It encourages the reader to approach the text on multiple levels, with Kingsley providing the text and its own exegesis. Being a mystery writer, Kingsley does not reveal the important things directly, but often buries them and interweaves them within the spaces of the text. In the ancient mysteries, the most important things were not what was revealed, but what was hinted at, pointed to, or was intuited. Carl Jung wrote in Memories, Dreams, Reflections, “There is no linear evolution; there is only a circumambulation of the self,” (197). Mysteries take us around in circles. In the crime mystery genre, everything is revealed in the end. In the ancient mystery genre, there is a continuing circumambulation around the center, everything is not revealed, but, perhaps, everything can be understood as one becomes the mystery which one was seeking.
I have to mention, Amazon took 3 months to deliver the book to me. I originally received it much more quickly directly through the author’s website. I bought a second copy for a friend through Amazon and that took 3 months – that is a bit of a mystery as the author apparently has copies in stock. One always has to be careful with the source of where one is seeking wisdom.