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He breathed the air of the whole World. Carl Gustav Jung and Africa

Homo sapiens (knowing man), homo faber (working man), and homo ludens (playing man)... These definitions help us to understand, how the thinkers of different times divided these particular stages of human development. Carl Jung, one of the greatest scholars and scientists of the last century, and the founder of analytical psychology suggested his own option. He wanted the modern man to be homo totus, (wholesome man). Jung not only thought of the term and raised the problem, he also showed a solution. The way out for Jung was unification of all aspects of human psyche, and the completion of the individualization process in a unified High Self.

The notion of wholesomeness or integral development was fundamental for Jung. He had a wholesome view of the world and the man in it. He was able to see history as a global evolutionary process, which had universal sense of development. Carl Jung viewed people of all races as a single human race. He also developed the notion of the collective unconscious, and demonstrated the commonality of the human archetypes in all times and among all peoples.

Jung was also convinced that the East and the West should meet and get to know each other in the intellectual, spiritual, scientific, and religious way.

Jung thought in planetary categories. When he got older, he paid more attention to the world's problems. He was one of the first persons to understand the problem of survival of humanity as a whole. No single nation, as great and successful as it is, can survive alone. Jung possessed a vast knowledge, and this helped him to have a universal vision and understanding. Jung based his scientific and scholarly research on mythology, fairy tales, religious teachings, history of culture, exotic rituals, alchemy, paintings, sculpture and sacral geometry. He chose psychiatry as his main specialty because in it he saw a way to combine his studies in history, medicine, literature and philosophy.

He was interested in peoples of all continents, of all races. Jung did not just conduct theoretical studies. He actually met and talked to all kinds of people during his visits to Egypt, India, USA, Mexico, Kenya and Uganda. Jung tried to see the hidden meaning behind the cultures unfamiliar to the westerners. People who go to foreign countries for a visit can be either tourists or travelers. Jung was definitely not a tourist. Neither was he a mere traveler. He lived out the experiences of a new culture, accepted it, and through this was able to discover and understand himself better.

This was what happened to him during his two visits to Africa. During his first visit, in the spring of 1920, he visited North Africa, Tunisia and Algeria in particular. Jung long dreamed of making such a trip to a non-European country with different historical traditions. He was not disappointed. In his immediate letters to his friends, as well as in his memoirs written half a century later, Jung wrote about his initial shock and excitement after seeing Africa. In his letters and memoirs, he recreated the features of nature, people, and different places he saw. He also noted the difference in how another civilization viewed the world, and what value system it had.

Here are some excerpts dated from March of 1920. "Africa lies before me. It is a rugged and beautiful land, hot and dry, with sudden cold winds blowing from the deserts of the Atlas. The soil is brown, rich and fertile. The fields are impossibly green. The roads have a blinding white color to them, and camels walk on them with their heavy pace. The nights of the first quarter of the new moon are the most mysterious. The moon floats across the clear dark sky of Africa in its indescribable silvery purity. I only understood the symbol of the Punic graves in Carthage and of Astarte herself when I first saw the moon slowly descending over the palm trees.

Peoples and cultures here melt into one entity. You can see all the skin colors, from pure white, to pure black, and every shade in between. You can see people with red hair, whose origin might have been from Lombardy or somewhere else in Europe. Here you can see the worst kind of outcasts alongside the noblest type of a Mediterranean man."

Jung was a true master at describing what he saw, to the point when the reader could clearly visualize his word pictures. "The oasis town of Tozer lies on a small hill, on the edge of a plateau. The warm and salty springs irrigate the oasis, channeled through thousands of small canals. The tall aged palm trees make sort of a shady roof, with peaches, apricots and figs growing underneath them. Kingfishers, who shine like precious stones, flitter between the trees."

Of course, Carl Jung was first of all interested in people. He sat in cafes for hours, observing the crowds, analyzing people's mimic, gestures, emotions. "I didn't speak a word of Arabic, but I was able to observe people, their customs and habits very carefully." Jung saw two main distinctions characteristic of this "new world". First distinction related to time. He saw that time flowed differently in North Africa. This was a world of "an endless time span, and of static existence." Jung understood a watch, this symbol of western fast-paced time as a threat to the North Africans. The watch would "unavoidably divide their eternity into days, hours, and minutes, grinding everything." Jung remembered how a lone rider passed them on the road to the Nefta oasis. He was dressed in white, and sat proudly in his saddle. "The rider looked incredibly good and elegant in his own way. He looked like a man who had never had a watch. He didn't need it. He knew what he needed to know. He did not possess that bustling, which so easily sticks to the westerners. A westerner moves forward, toward an unclear goal with a light baggage, and constantly accelerating. A westerner wins in speed, but loses in duration."

Secondly, he paid attention to the correlation between rational and emotional domains. "Suddenly, I felt as if I returned to the past, to a naive and child-like world. These people were not prone to philosophizing. They lived under the full influence of feelings and passions. They do not reflect on their actions, but their life seems to be much more intense than ours. Childhood can create a wholesome and self-reliant person in all of his uniqueness. The westerner lives according to his ratio. He considers it good to suppress normal human traits, and he does not even notice that he loses the fullness of life and the wholesomeness of his own personhood."

As we can see, through studying people of other cultures, Jung came to very significant conclusions regarding the weak links of western civilization. He put such a task in front of himself on purpose. Jung wrote, "I wanted to see Europeans through other peoples' eyes. I traveled throughout Africa, trying to find something that lies on the other side of western consciousness. Subconsciously, I wanted to find that part of my person, which disappeared or was suppressed under the influence of western life style. In the same way that memories of your childhood bring about a live and vivid feeling as if you were carried away to the world of your childhood, this strange foreign world awakes an archetypal memory about our own past. These are memories of our potential possibilities denied by the civilization."

Carl Jung was able to realize this task only during his second visit to Africa. When he went to see the London Exhibition of 1925 on Wembley Stadium, he was so impressed by the exposition of the tribes and the peoples of the British Empire, he decided to go the tropics of the Sub-Saharan Africa, right in the heart of the continent. When he went there, Jung made several discoveries. These discoveries were about him, time, and human nature. He remembered the time he spent on this trip as "some of the best days of my life." He wrote, "I and my fellow travelers were happy to experience the taste of African life in all of her primal exceptional beauty, and in all the depths of her suffering. My soul was powerfully and freely drawn back to this blessed primal expanse."

The 20th century science proved that Africa was the birthplace of the human species. Jung's sub consciousness told him the same thing. Reading his notes one could clearly see that Jung underwent a strong spiritual experience in Africa. After a very dark night in the tropics, he saw the sunrise. The sun rays woke him up when he was on board of a train, which was bypassing a red cliff in the cloud of red dust. "On the edge of the cliff, a thin black figure was standing motionless, leaning against a long spear, and gazing down on the moving train. A huge cactus was growing nearby. I was spellbound by such an unusual scene. This was meeting something so alien, something never seen before. Yet, in the same time I felt a strong sense of recognition that I was in this place before, a kind of deja vu. It seemed that I always knew this world, and I just got separated from it by accident, and only for a time. It seemed, I returned to the country of my childhood, and I knew this black man. He waited to see me again for five thousand years. This sensation never left me all the time while I traveled around Africa. It's hard to say, what exactly triggered this feeling in me, or if it was indeed because of seeing the lone black hunter. I just knew somehow, that this world used to be my world for thousands of years."

It's interesting to note that another westerner, British author Graham Greene, who visited equatorial Africa multiple times in the 1930s, also said that traveling around Africa could be compared with a return to the distant past of the human race, a return to its source. Graham Greene himself said that he went to Africa in order to understand better his own soul and the human soul in general, just like Carl Jung did. Graham Greene also compared Africa with the world of childhood, full of mysteries, secrets, and legends. When you immerse yourself in it, you get a chance "to peek into the past and find out, where did the humanity lose its way?" It becomes clear, "what kind of trouble and what kind of menaces did the intense brain work bring to people." This testimony of Greene was very similar to that of Carl Jung, who was his contemporary. This proves that this view had some basis, and wasn't just due to their individual experiences.

When you read about Jung's second trip to Africa, it immerses you even more into the magical world of Africa. You can see the shadowy valleys, the shining mountain tops, palm trees and mango groves, little round mounds of the termite colonies, scenic fields with clean and refreshing cold streams. You can see him walking along a pathway in a dry savannah, or through a jungle of the bright red naidi trees. You can see him watching gigantic beetles and brightly colored butterflies, or hearing the melodic singing of birds in banana plantations. Jung wrote, "We felt as if we got lost in the jungle. It was a paradise." In the same time, the travelers passed through many African villages, and observed people who sat and talked around small bonfires.

The group planned to climb up Mount Elgon (elevation 4400 meters). The Masai tribe lived on the slopes of this mountain. Carl Jung decided to do a scientific research of this tribe. This time, he was not an outsider looking into the peoples of Africa. Jung learned Swahili, asked his "informants" about the life style, customs, religious rituals, and dreams of the Masai people. Jung wanted to find out, whether there was any difference in the subconscious mind between people of different races. He gathered his information using African Americans of the inner cities of the US, the black tribes in the heartland of Africa, and isolated native Indian tribes of Latin America. Jung was able to make his scientific discoveries because he was not confined in the walls of the European academic world. He worked as a doctor in the colonies, and observed many patients, both European settlers, and the natives.

Close communication with the Africans during his second trip gave Jung a rich material for analysis. He was very sympathetic, and even in awe of the Masai people. Here is his description of the Masai girls, who were told by the chief to bring water to the westerners: "The girls were strikingly beautiful and lean. They had a chocolate-brown skin, and slow dignified aristocratic gestures. We were so pleased to hear the melodic cling of their iron rings every morning, when they walked from the river or out of the tall yellow grass graciously, holding water vessels on their heads. The girls were very well mannered. When they saw us, they would always smile charmingly, and shyly." In Jung's notes we often read such characteristics of the Masai people as "a very handsome and courteous young man", "a beautiful woman, full of inner calm and dignity", and so on.

Here are Jung's remarks about his guides, the young Masai men, "My Blacks turned out to be very knowledgeable about the human character. They had an intuitive understanding related to their surprising ability to imitate. They can copy postures, pace, gestures, manners of speech so well. They can literally feel themselves in somebody else's skin. Their ability to understand the emotional nature was truly striking. I used every opportunity to get into long conversations with them. This was how I learned a lot."

Obviously, Jung was able to make his discoveries not only because he studied the natives, but also because he learned from them. Jung was very interested in the Africans; he treated them with respect, and won their trust. His wide and deep knowledge also helped him as well. Jung wrote about an episode when the Somalians visited their camp daily. Since the majority of them could speak pigeon Swahili, Jung was able to speak with them. "Because I knew the Quran, they called me "The Man of the Book", and considered me a Muslim in European clothes." Their trust toward him was so great; they invited him into their homes, and often came to him for counseling and advice.

We remember another European, who ended up in Africa almost in the same year. Antoine de Saint-Exupery wrote about the Sahara in his classic works of the 20th century. He came to Fort Cape Juby for military service in the air force. He was able to win trust and respect of the locals so fast, that soon all the Arabs in the area spread the news across the Sahara that a great white wise man appeared in Juby. After that, old chiefs would come to the fort to get counsel from the wise Rumi (European) about their family and tribal matters.

Jung was keenly interested in the Masai rituals. He observed a ritual, when at sunrise they would come out of their huts, spit in their palms, and stretch them toward the sun. Here is how Jung deciphered this ritual: "It is an offering to the sun at the time of dawn. According to the beliefs of the primitive peoples, saliva is the substance which contains Manu. Manu is the curative and magical life power. Breathing out is the symbol of wind and spirit. Thus, the ritual means, "I offer to God my living soul." This was a silent man-made prayer, which could be interpreted as, "Lord, unto your hands I commit my spirit."

Carl Jung's creed of faith was similar to this prayer: "I need to be fully committed to God. No questions asked, only the fulfillment of his will. Otherwise, everything is meaningless and insane." Jung just like the Masai people, watched the sunrise every day. Every morning he took a chair and sat under an umbrella acacia tree and intercepted "a divine moment on the equator, when the first rays of sun penetrated darkness and the night was gone, leaving room for a life giving light. The light gave an impression as if it infiltrated every object, so that the objects shone from the inside. Everything around looked like fiery crystals. A sound of a bellbird singing was heard from afar. In such moments I thought that I am in some kind of a fairy tale castle. This was the most sacred hour of the day for me. I enjoyed this magnificence with a tremendous excitement." As the proverb goes, the happy people do not look at the clock. Just like Jung did, they forget about time.

It was hard for Jung to bid farewell to Africa. "It was hard for me to get used to the thought that I will never see or experience this magnificence again. Later on, gold was discovered near Kakemega, and the Mau Mau movement spread across my beloved country. We all had to wake up from our dreams and illusions." At the end of his journey, Carl Jung understood that at the center of it was his own self, though the primary reason was the study of the psychology of the primitive peoples and of the westerners' reaction to primitive life conditions. "Objective scientific research turned into a personal quest for me. Every single decision made concerned me first and foremost. At one point I even suspected myself that the real reason for this African journey was to get away from Europe with all of its unsolvable problems, even at the risk of staying in Africa for good. Many people did this before me, and are still doing it now."

As a proof of this point, Jung remembered an encounter at the beginning of his journey, when he just boarded a train. An older Englishman who looked like a settler came up to him and started talking. The Englishman asked him about the purpose of his journey, and when Jung told him, he said, "May I give you an advice? This is not man's but God's country. If something happens to you, just sit down and try not to get nervous." After he said this, he disappeared quickly in the crowd of Black people. Carl Jung remembered, "After I heard these words, I just sat there trying to think of a psychological state of the man who had just said these words. The Englishman's words revealed a quintessence of his experience. It was not man, but God who ruled over here. In other words, not the human will or intentions ruled Africa, but the unfathomable fate."

In Latin America Carl Jung lived among the Pueblo Indian tribe. His local friend was convinced that by doing his early morning ritual he helped Father Sun to go on his daily journey across the sky. Jung admitted that, "I cannot get rid of envy toward him because his life is full of meaning, but I have no hope to find my own myth to follow."

But Africa did help Carl Jung to find his own myth. Moreover, at a certain moment Jung discovered a cosmogonist meaning of consciousness. It is impossible to describe in words what a person experiences in a moment like this. Quite often, the cause that leads to this "moment of enlightenment" is very mundane. Jung was just stood on a hill and looked at the savannah stretching all the way to the horizon, as far as the eyes could see. Countless flocks of animals, like zebras, antelopes, and gazelles covered the expanse. Silently, they moved forward in a slow motion, like mighty calm rivers. "This was the place where calmness reigned. This world was always like this, before the existence of man, before anything. I lost track of my friends, and felt absolute solitude. I felt as if I was the first man on earth, who recognized this world and created it for himself through his own knowledge."

Jung discovered that man is capable to do acts of creation, and through these acts he can find his place in the world. If we live without this understanding, "we make our existence as some kind of clockwork, and we turn human psyche into something pointless, that develops according to some pre-defined rules. This clockwork type of man is hopeless. He does not know the dramatic relationship between man and the universe, man and God. He doesn't understand such notions as "a new day", and "a new earth". He is only subject to the monotonous oscillation."

Jung noted the specific notion of time in Africa very well during both of his trips. He called it "the world before genesis", "the eternal beginning." He wrote that the farther one moves from Sahara, the slower the time flows. This is because Africa has a different time vector. In European consciousness time is linear. It is like an arrow in the air, which flies to its target. The African consciousness is cyclic. It always returns to the starting point. This is why African mentality values stability and immutability. Change is not what African mentality strides toward. Contemporary Africanists write that the 20th century's notion that Africa was a stagnant place go back to the time when the Europeans first discovered it, and grew out of their lack of desire to understand a different culture. Carl Jung, on the contrary, was an example of a scientist who had a right understanding and even acceptance of a totally different value system. He was able to see not only the peculiar and strange things, but also things which related to all of humanity.

Earth is one whole. Our planet has one air, water, and environment. Now the planet is interconnected more than ever by the world economy and by the migrations. What used to be one continent Pangaea in the prehistoric times is now divided into several different continents. But only in our time all of the continents united again, not geographically, but in a sense of interconnectedness. Africa must be a healthy part of the organism of today's Pangaea. Only then the common prosperity of the human race can be achieved.

The idea of a synthesis in different fields has become defining in the 21st century. The time has come for a positive all-out unity and a wholesome integral approach to the world's problems. The "either or" type of thinking distorts the picture of the world, and leads to dualism. The confrontations and the use of force are based on a two dimensional thinking "friend vs. enemy", "good vs. evil", "white vs. black", etc. Today, a universal vision is being developed, which seeks commonality of all mankind. Western thinking is being penetrated by the advaita, the teaching about oneness. Temples are being built, which are dedicated to all religions of the world, such as the Temple of Lotus on the Hudson River. The image from The Rose of the World, in which every rose-leaf represents a faith, and all the leaves constitute one flower, shows the way to achieve unity without losing individuation and uniqueness.

In the same way we have to understand humanity as a whole. No man is an island, as famous poet John Donne put it. We are all part of the same continent. Peoples and languages cannot be divided into significant and insignificant ones. A circle, no matter big or small, still has 360 degrees.

Carl Gustav Jung showed an example of how a person of one civilization must interact with a person of another civilization. The people of the world must come to a true globalization. Without such an experience a person can never find himself, can never become wholesome. If you base your knowledge only on your own culture, and on your own history, you can never become a person in a true sense of the word. Only when you learn to appreciate culture different from your own, you can understand your own culture even deeper, and you can experience a true national or ethnic pride, not distorted by ignorant and militant nationalism.
The heroes of the medieval novels, the knights, traveled a lot in search of adventures, heroic feats, defense of the weak, and justice. While they moved from place to place horizontally, they also moved up on the spirit vertical. Many outstanding people experienced a similar process in their lives. Traveling around the world, meeting representatives of exotic cultures, learning philosophical teachings and arts of different times and nations played a large role in their lives and influenced them in creating their masterpieces. Among them were Hermann Hesse, who spent time in India and China, Vincent van Gogh in Japan, Herman Melville on the Marquesas Islands, Paul Gauguin in Polynesia, and many others. Of course, Carl Gustav Jung with his travels to Africa and India occupies a prominent place among these great authors and artists. Only after his trip to India in the 1930s did Jung create his major works.

The works of Jung are a full encyclopedia of the achievements of the spirit, mind, and skillfulness of man. Jung used the wealth of all mankind as a source. In his book Symbols of Transformation there were at least 127 illustrations, and hundreds of textual examples. Among them were the drawings of the Alaskan shamans, the vessels from Peru, the body art of the Haida native Indian tribe, the sculptures of ancient India and of the Etruscans, the bronze figurines from Sweden, the wooden figurines from Hawaii, vessels for incense from West Africa, lingams of Cambodia, artifacts from Assyria, the Aztec Kingdom, New Guinea, Eastern Java, Constantinople, Northern Syria, Ancient Egypt, Bali, Mexico, and China. The quotes from the Upanishads and Firdausi went side by side with the quotations from the Bible and Shakespeare.

We know that a few days before his death Jung had a dream. In this dream he saw a huge round stone sitting on a high place. The following words were engraved on that stone, "And this shall be a sign of Integrity and Unity for you." This was a high testimony that Jung attained this integrity, this wholesomeness, which he desired so much, and he also showed a way toward it to all mankind.

By Nina Shogentsukova.

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«Золотая площадь». Международный журнал культурной и деловой жизни.
The Golden Plaza. International Magazine of Culture and Business.
Свидетельство о регистрации средств массовой информации:
Москва, Федеральная служба по надзору в сфере связи, информационных технологий и массовых коммуникаций (Роскомнадзор), Эл № ФС77-49585 от 24 апреля 2012 г.
Учредитель: Индивидуальный предприниматель Эркенов Рашид Адамович.
Главный редактор журнала «Золотая площадь» Аппаев Билял Добаевич.
Издатель: индивидуальный предприниматель Эркенов Рашид Адамович. Адрес издателя: 369380, КЧР, Малокарачаевский район, с. Учкекен, ул. Ленина, 89а.

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