A Jungian psychoanalyst explores the deep human need for concepts of wholeness and completeness and finds that need is the source of many problems.
Cosmic-tuned mandalas and mass murders might seem diametrically opposed—but that’s only at first blush. According to Salman, seemingly peaceful spiritual and social concepts of oneness have a propensity to enslave the collective imagination. What follows is a rigorous academic undertaking that finds danger amid what the author calls “magic circles”—any convention or system purporting to be the tonic for humankind’s nagging fear of dissolution. The author examines varying political systems, religious practices and psychoanalytic thought throughout history and gauges their essential reliance on that phantom notion of totality. The most accessible and relevant example of this is the Internet. Despite the level playing field and enlightened interconnectivity that the Internet promises, the author notes that the Web’s “wholeness” can also be used for sinister aims—such as the spread of terror. For every tweet of free speech, there’s an echo chamber of narrow-minded venom. And, Salman believes, such is the case with all notions of wholeness; the completeness seems beneficial but in fact causes harm and rifts among people. Salman’s command of language is impressive, but many readers may find her prose dense and overly academic: “As he matured, Jung elaborated the goal of totality using the alchemical imagery of the stone (the seed) that begins its journey as a chaotic massa confusa…” and so on. Readers who rack their personal lexicons and still can’t shake out terms like “pharmakon” and “pychopomps” will undoubtedly feel left out. Those with enough fortitude and endurance to digest the “mythopoetic” mind, however, will be rewarded. Understanding the roots of fundamentalism and totalitarianism is challenging, but worth contemplating.
A smart, challenging discourse that succeeds despite an annoyingly unapologetic fondness for dry, academic wordplay.