Saturday, August 17, 2013

"As Someone Once Said:" Jung, Martin Luther King and Quotations

"That which we do not bring to consciousness appears in our lives as fate."
C.G. Jung

It's a great quote, right?  It's certainly a penetrating thought, succinctly expressed.  But is it really a quote?
Did Jung really say or write it--those exact words?

A lot of sites on the Internet think so, or at least they unquestionably accept it as a true quote.  Try it yourself--do a search on the quote.  I just did again--5 out of the first 6 sites at the top use these exact words, attributed to Jung, but without a source named.  One of the top six however varies it a bit: "Whatever is not conscious will be experienced as fate."

To be fair, this last site was quoting a book, or rather a review of a book: a Washington Post Book Review "where it was noted to be the epigraph to Craig Nova's new novel, Cruisers..."

And I first happened on it in a actual physical book as well, in the exact form quoted up top.  It's one of three quotations at the top of an essay ("Flying Rabbits: Denizens of Distant Space") by Margaret Atwood, in her recent collection In Other Words: SF and the Human Imagination.  Atwood is a careful writer and scholar, who noted in a footnote that the quotation came from another book, Meeting the Shadow by Abrams and Zweig.

It happens that I have that book, too. It's a collection of essays by various authors, including Jung.  Eager for an exact citation, I checked it. It's not in the Jung essay, nor in the many footnoted passages from Jung's work in other essays.  The quote is again one of several on the very first page, without source.

By source or citation or attribution I mean, exactly where in Jung's work does it appear?  Nobody seems to know.  And nobody seems to care.  Because it just keeps getting repeated--and thanks to the Internet, over and over. It's even been perpetuated by multiple tweets.  If it's on the Internet it must be true, right?  It's like the quote has been friended about a million times.

Instead we get "as Carl Jung once said..."

 That it appears in slightly different form--always without attribution--is perhaps telling.  The Psyche Wizard quotes it:“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” And he calls it "one of the most important quotes ever!"
Another site: "When an inner situation is not made conscious, it appears outside as fate." Though this site does attribute some quotes, it doesn't link for this one (though as we'll see, we may be getting warmer...)

For finally, someone does have an attribution to a statement that carries the sense of this one: "The psychological rule says that when an inner situation is not made conscious, it happens outside as fate. That is to say, when the individual remains undivided and does not become conscious of his inner opposite, the world must perforce act out the conflict and be torn into opposing halves." The citation is to Jung's Collected Works Vol. 9.  The book's title is Aion, and this quote is taken from "126" which is a paragraph number I guess.  In the paperback edition it's on p. 72.  (This site comes up earlier if you search Jung and the quotation.)

So what's the point? We know by now that some famous quotes weren't said by the person credited with them, or said at all.  We know that many are not exact.  So people have different attitudes about what constitutes a quotation.  Close still gets a cigar.

On the other hand, we're seeing at the moment a consequence of the inaccurate or paraphrased quotation--namely the one that is being sandblasted off the Martin Luther King, Jr. statue in Washington.  Right now it's touch and go whether the work will be done in time for the 50th anniversary of his speech at the March on Washington.

The controversy there was not so much accuracy as the inaccuracy gave a false impression of King's point.  A lot of the problem was context.  And in some sense that's true of lots of quotations.  For instance, Jung's.  In Aion he's making a very specific point about western civilization, and the split in Christian consciousness.  (The chapter is called "Christ, A Symbol of the Self.")

But of course Jung may well have said something very similar in another context.  He may actually have written or said the exact words of this "famous" quotation.  (I noted it because it is brilliantly expressed, and seemed familiar.  My hunch is that someone paraphrased Jung in just this way--Hillman maybe, or William Irwin Thompson, or Bly.)  But if so, nobody I've seen who quotes it has given any location in his writing where he wrote it--or even an interview where he said it.

What truly bothers me is that nobody seems to care where he said it, in what context, or whether he said it at all.    

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Telling Truth to Anti-American GOP

Quoted: “Their number priority, the one unifying principle in the Republican Party at the moment is making sure that 30 million people don’t have health care,” Obama told reporters at a televised news conference Friday. “There’s not even a pretense now that they’re going to replace it with something better. The notion is simply that those 30 million people or the 150 million who are benefiting from the other aspects of affordable care, will be better off without it. That’s their assertion. Not backed by fact, not backed by any evidence. It’s just become an ideological fixation.”