Friday, July 23, 2010

Jung at Heart

(reflection upon re-reading Robertson Davies' "Deptford Trilogy," especially the second in the series, THE MANTICORE.  I use a paperback edition from Penguin books, 1984,  Originally published in 1972.)

Robertson Davies (photographed above) was a sly, witty, humane spinner of tales from his esoteric interests.  I've written an appreciation of him elsewhere ( "Reading" at  ) , and will focus here on THE MANTICORE.

As a novel, it's a great essay.  It is flanked by wonderful stories.  This one is also fascinating, and it's fun to see how Davies fits its incidents into the larger framework.  But it's still a device for showing the reader what Davies liked in Jung's psychology.

The narrator, lawyer David Staunton, speaks to us through journal entries and transcripts of his year in analysis with a Jungian practitioner.  He tells his life story to her, and she points out to him the way he is casting the real people of his life as characters in his own personal drama.  By the end, he has achieved at least one main goal of analysis:

I am beginning to recognize the objectivity of the world, while knowing also that because I am who and what I am, I both perceive the world in terms of who and what I am and project onto the world a great deal of who and what I am.  If I know this, I ought to be able to escape the stupider kinds of illusion. (269)

All of this was fascinating to me when I read it at 25. Double that, now, and it's a timely reminder.  Now that I think of it, I have a pretty good idea of who my "persona" is and my "shadow."

The face I try to present to the world at my best, my persona, is mild, competent, detached (and therefore ready to be amused), a fair observer whose talents are sifting and finding connections between things, and appreciating others' perspectives the way an actor does.

The shadow, whom I know uncomfortably well when I feel under attack, is hot tempered and ready to strike back with cutting remarks intended to cause permanent damage to the attacker's self-image and social reputation,

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