(0:00) “Somewhere Jung says that the only evil is unconsciousness. And this, I think, this touches to your work, Don, that this growth in consciousness which psychoanalysis aims towards has to be understood as a moral drive towards the good.”
(0:26) Jakob Lusensky: First of all, I just want to say that I am very happy to have both of you in the same room. You have both very different voices, but voices I’ve learned from and I had the opportunity to have a conversation with, and I’m really excited to see how our conversation develops today. When I spoke to you, Don, we did delve into the matter of conscience, and the thought came to me that it would be an interesting exercise together to use conscience as a starting point to delve into the psychology of that. But also, through the help of Sean, get a little theological backdrop to conscience.
It could be appropriate to start this discussion on conscience with Martin Luther. Actually, the first lecture that I invited Sean to do in Berlin was on Luther and deconstruction[ism], some years back, a great lecture that’s still available on YouTube. And Luther had been sort of accompanying me in various ways, through and after my psychoanalytic training. And he has a lot to say also on the theme of conscience. But I thought that a starting point for this conversation today could be the Reformation movement at the Diet of Worms back in 1521, when Martin Luther, standing before the emperor and pope’s representative, said the following:
“Since then your serene majesty and your lordships seek a simple answer, I will give it in this manner, neither horned nor toothed: Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason . . . I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not retract anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience.”
And supposedly the secretary to the Archbishop of Trier disregarded Luther’s appeal by shouting: “Lay aside your conscience, Martin. You must lay it aside because it is in error.”
And I thought it is fitting because this also put a context for the complexities of discussing conscience, and separating those inner voices. Luther’s appealing here to conscience, and the assertion of freedom of the human conscience against the hegemonic power of the church and state. And this is seen as the start of the Reformation process, but it also shows that complexity, no? When can one be sure that conscience actually speaks the voice of good or the voice of truth or the voice of God, and—or—when is it the devil in disguise, or perhaps one of our parents, or other authority that we grew up with, that is speaking to us in [inaudible]?
So I thought that would from here invite you, Sean, to see where you would go with this. And if you could share your reflections on this moment, when you share it, but also to give a little bit of a theological framing of conscience.
(3:57) Sean McGrath: Well, Luther, in this moment, is in fact being a good scholastic. There is something in this moment that veers away from the tradition, but it’s not what you think. So Luther insisting that he stands by his conscience is in fact completely compatible with the tradition, the medieval tradition, that he’s trained in. And his critics, accusing him of having an erring conscience, is also compatible, because conscience in this medieval tradition—very much like in the Jung article—conscience is not identical to knowledge. It’s compatible with ignorance. Conscience means co-scientia. It’s a double knowledge or a knowledge that accompanies knowledge, and so there’s a kind of ambiguity of conscience, and it seems to me that that’s what’s coming to the fore in this exchange.
What Luther does in this moment that’s actually against—that violates the Catholic tradition—is he says, “I will stand by scripture and reason and conscience,” and he excludes tradition. So that’s the Reformation moment. The Reformation is not that Luther insists on standing by his conscience over and against the church that would want him—that encourages him to violate his conscience. That’s kind of a pop version. The real thing going on here is that he’s cut tradition out of theology. But if we go back to the business of conscience, you know, it’s a medieval principle that every conscience binds, even an erring one. Thomas Aquinas argues that one should never go against one’s conscience, and if you think about it, it’s pretty clear what he means there. What would it mean to go against your conscience? It means to do something which you believe to be wrong. That’s always, always a sin.
Now, that said, conscience—this is what I like about the Jung piece (I think we might have some internet connection [difficulties] here, but you can look after that after): The conscience is not innate knowledge of the good. It’s not enough to just kind of spontaneously follow your conscience, because your conscience can be in error. And this is what Luther’s critics are saying: “Your conscience is in error.” So the question is whether Luther’s conscience is informed enough, whether his conscience has become—if you want to speak psychoanalytically—has become conscious enough to be trusted. Because conscience is not simply innate knowledge of the good. It’s a kind of innate capacity for the good, or it’s an innate tendency towards the good, which requires knowledge. That’s how the scholastics would put it. Or requires consciousness.
And so there’s this idea that one has to be responsible to one’s conscience. One has to inform it. One has to read. One has to think. One has to listen to authorities. And one has to discern whether there is any doubt whether what one regards as the conscience of the good, and if there’s a bit of doubt there, then one has to actually pause, expand the judgment, and inform oneself. And what Luther is saying here, which is perfectly in accordance with the Catholic tradition, is that there is no doubt in my conscience, and therefore I need to do what I’m doing. That is a fully Orthodox position.
(7:28) Jakob Lusensky: And what about the conscience as consciousness of sin? Can you say something about that as well?
(7:34) Sean McGrath: Well that’s what’s so interesting here. So, this is a complicated story that goes all the way back to Plato. And it’s the connection between knowledge and virtue. So out of Plato you get this idea that knowledge is virtue, that one cannot know the good and not do the good; and one cannot do the good and not know the good. And sometimes that’s been spun as a kind of determinism, but it’s actually an extremely deep point. And I think it’s the very root of this idea of the duality between conscience and consciousness. It’s that they’re not the same thing. And that is that a conscience that has become fully conscious, you could say, is a knowledge of the good. And at that point, you know, everything is in place. It’s a complete and entire participation in what ought to be done. But anything short of that is going to have trouble. So this idea that comes from Socrates, who says that no man can do wrong knowingly, that is, you can’t look into the face of the good and choose evil, that is, we all desire the good on some basic level. Even if it’s just the good for ourselves. Even a suicide, even a masochist, in a certain way, is preferring death and pain to life and pleasure, and saying, “This is my good.” And so there’s a kind of inborn—and this is the tradition out of which Luther is speaking—there’s this inborn drive towards the good, which is incompatible with voluntarily doing the bad.
But that said, the good has to be brought to consciousness. That is, there has to be a growth from this unconscious—it’s very interesting—but conscience in the tradition is: an unconscious inclination towards the good, left on its own, is not enough. It’s got to be raised up to consciousness. And with this elevation of conscience to consciousness, we have, then, all that’s required for the moral act. Now of course it has to be done freely. So this is not a mechanistic thing. So one’s will is involved. And so this leads to certain kinds of paradoxes.
How do we accuse somebody of being guilty of sin, that is, of knowingly doing what’s wrong? And Aquinas, who’s a very subtle thinker, said, well, what’s going on there is disavowed—he doesn’t use the word—but basically when you see evil, culpable evil, what you see is culpable ignorance. Somebody is refusing to elevate this unconscious inclination towards the good which we call conscience to the level of consciousness so that it could be a fully moral act. Instead, they’re at a kind of certain—and this is a very puzzling moment—they’re saying, “No, I will not to know.” It’s what Žižek calls ideology. Now I will not to know. I do not know. I will not know what I need to know in order to trust my instinct, you could say, my spontaneous inclination. And at that point you have something problematic. But nevertheless the principle remains. Every conscience binds. Even an erring one. And that rich paradox at the center of the medieval tradition is coming right to the fore in this dialogue that you quote here.
(10:58) Jakob Lusensky: Don, do you have anything for now, any spontaneous reactions to what’s been shared?
(11:05) Donald Carveth: Well, the idea of the need for conscience or for the voice of conscience to become conscious: my thoughts immediately go to the Jung paper, and the superb example he gives of the man who has the dream of both arms covered in black dirt. So this is a man who, before his discussion of his dream with Jung, has been having an unconscious conscience, an unconscious reaction of conscience. He has not been conscious of what his conscience is aware of and is saying; through the analysis of the dream, he becomes aware of conscious of it. So, our capacity to blind ourselves to conscience is profound. It’s all over the place. I think much of my practice involves the kind of thing that Jung is describing in that dream.
(12:11) Sean McGrath: And what I think Jung has so—what he’s so superbly pointing out there is that this voice of God, conscience, is not enough. Sometimes it’s just the voice of the community, sometimes it’s some buried instinct for what’s right, and sometimes it’s actually something that should actually be resisted. In other words, the spontaneity of the voice, the fact that the voice is direct and instinctive, is not enough. It has to be brought to this other level. And I think this is very strong in Jung. Somewhere Jung says that the only evil is unconsciousness.
And this I think touches on your work, Don. That this growth in consciousness, which psychoanalysis aims toward, has to be understood as a moral drive towards the good, or as an ethical drive—this is the way Jung would prefer it, because he sees this distinction between morality and ethics. And I think your work has brought this out. What I understand Don to be doing is he’s giving the lie to a kind of classical Freudianism which understood the psychoanalytical tradition to be kind of amoral in a certain way, or indifferent. It’s amoral, and then I guess metaphysical and religious questions, cause they all tend to go together, Freud saw pretty clearly. And once you start talking about morality, religion and philosophy’s around the corner. He didn’t want to go around that corner.
But it seems to me that what Don has done in this book is he’s argued that, you know, you’ve already turned that corner, insofar as [the] conscious, a growth in consciousness, is always a good thing. And a resistance to consciousness is always a bad thing. And that seems to me to be something that’s actually a medieval principle.
(13:50) Donald Carveth: So I have a problem with a part of what you said earlier, Sean. And it’s a problem, I think, in a lot of the literature. I think also in Jung. Part of the problem is the failure to distinguish conscience from superego. The word conscience is being used too indiscriminately here. I think we really need a radical distinction between conscience and superego. I mean, both conscience and superego appear as voices in our heads. Both conscience and superego can show up in dreams, as in the dream offered by Jung. But they’re very different principles. And it very much confuses our thinking to use the word conscience to describe both. Because I think conscience is of God. And I think it’s a lot of the time not nearly as hard as people think to discriminate between these voices in our heads.
Well, I suppose, my favourite passage from the New Testament is 1 John 4: 7–12: “Beloved, let us love one another because love is of God. Everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.” Okay, the conscience is the voice of God, because the conscience is a principle of love. The superego is a principle of hate. You know—so when these voices speak hatefully, cruelly, sadistically, mockingly, attackingly—that we’re dealing with superego there. When the voice is loving, however sad and aggrieved it may be because, you know, the child is off the path and the father who’s calling him back to the path has tears in his eyes. That father with tears in his eyes speaks in a very different way than the superego does. So, you know, I think a lot of what—well, let me just leave it at that. I think that this distinction is crucial to our discussion.
(16:10) Sean McGrath: And it strikes me that while both remain unconscious, the distinction between them cannot be made. That is, superego and conscience become confused precisely because they’re left in the basement.
(16:26) Donald Carveth: Exactly.
(16:30) Sean McGrath: This connection between conscience and knowledge, they’re not the same thing. And even in the quote, the passage from 1 John that you just cited, there’s this play on loving God and knowing God, and he who loves knows God, and he who does not love does not know God. There’s always this reference, there’s always this connection to knowledge that’s coming forward here. And the connection is there because we need to recognize that it’s not enough, for example, to have a spontaneous drive towards something. It also has to be, in a certain way, illuminated by knowledge. So like John could have said, “He who loves is of God.” But he adds that loving God and knowing God are actually one. And if you do not know God then you’re not loving in the right way. It seems to me that’s the implication.
This strikes me as important in our day and age, because we are so, we are still neo-Romantics, we’re so fascinated by spontaneous and instinctive behaviour, we’re inclined to trust it. You know, “I trust my heart,” “I have to do it,” “I cannot do otherwise.” You know, kind of doing a Luther in our post-post-modern moment. The spontaneity and the directness of an action is not enough to validate it ethically. There needs to be this second moment and this is what I think is coming out of the medieval tradition and that Jung is kind of brilliantly touching on. The second moment, where conscience becomes conscious, and I think—Don, you correct me—and at that point the distinction between that voice, which is just an introjected parental voice of repression, the superego, and the voice of God, they can be distinguished. They can only be distinguished on the level of consciousness—not on some kind of spontaneous unconscious level.
(18:23) Donald Carveth: Right, I agree. I mean, the whole psychoanalytic project is trying to make that which is unconscious conscious, and to promote the development of self-knowledge. So I completely agree with that point. But in terms of, you know, the critique of the spontaneity, I hesitate a little bit there, because one of the things I learned from the Jung essay: I finally found a way that I could agree with his idea of the archetype. Because—to me—the archetype has always seemed like a very fuzzy, woolly concept of sort of innate ideas or mythical patterns that come from where, I don’t know, what are they grounded in? But suddenly I realize that part of what he’s trying to do with the concept of the archetype is to say he’s referring to nature, he’s referring to elements of our being that are natural, that are unlearned, that do not come from culture. And of course he’s saying that conscience is such a natural thing.
And he’s referring to archetypal patterns—unlearned, given, built in—and I think that conscience is grounded in our mammalian and primate inheritance. I think part of the problem in our discussion again is—then here I go Freudian—we need the distinctions, we need the Id, as well as the ego, the superego. We also need the conscience and the ego ideal. We need five structures. But for Freud the Id is grounded in our animal inheritance. Jung seems to be sort of saying that—he makes me think that conscience is part of the Id, because conscience is grounded biologically. So, the Id would contain natural urges like aggression, urges which could lead to evil and destructiveness, are part of the dark side, but the Id, I would argue, also contains our light side. The Id contains conscience as well as aggression. I think Jung is pointing to this with his idea of the archetypal basis of conscience. Yeah, so just a word in favour of the spontaneity, the built in, the natural. There is something there that is very important that I think Jung is pointing to and that I’m pointing to by trying to ground conscience in attachment. Bowlby points to our primate inheritance. This is where our attachment, our tendency towards attachment, is grounded. It’s instinctual in that sense. It’s innate, unlearned. So this is a big important thing and it’s enabled me to connect with Jung in a way that I never was able to connect to before.
(21:38) Sean McGrath: Yeah, I hear the point. And it strikes me that, the Id, right—das Es—that’s the German.
(21:45) Donald Carveth: Yeah.
(21:46) Sean McGrath—is really just a word for the it, it’s a term to name the impersonal dimension of the psyche.
(21:53) Donald Carveth: Yeah.
(21:53) Sean McGrath: At least formally speaking. And it seems to me, what you’re touching on here is how differentiated Jung’s sense of the impersonal stratum truly is.
(22:03) Donald Carveth: Yeah.
(22:03) Sean McGrath: So the impersonal is not just violence and excess and animal, but it’s also, you could say, angelic, in a certain way.
(22:11) Donald Carveth: Yeah! Yeah.
(22:13) Sean McGrath: Or it’s got—our demons and our angels, they’re also transpersonal or sub-personal or something like that.
(22:20) Donald Carveth: Yes. Yes, but here, grounding the angelic in the Id, I think we get around a problem that I don’t think Jung got around. He’s stuck on—he’s such a profoundly dualistic thinker, and he has such a profound insight into the dualities of our nature—and he’s stuck on this dualistic concept of God, which I find utterly unacceptable. God is not both the dark and the light. God is the light. God is love. And when he points to the Lord’s Prayer, “Lead us not into temptation,” this is an image of God as leading us into temptation, putting us into danger, and to me, all I can say is that is either a flaw in the Lord’s Prayer that needs to be revised, or, I want you to tell me there’s a translation problem somewhere if we go back to the Greek, or if we go back, we’ll find that that sentence, “Lead us not into temptation”—but of course, the bible is full of images of a destructive God, a punishing God, but to me, this is not God. God is the Summum Bonum, God is love. This other stuff comes from elsewhere, okay? What’s your reaction to all of that, Sean?
(23:48) Sean McGrath: Okay, so, yeah, Don, you said a couple of things there that are really important, at least to my mind. Jung’s dualism, on the one hand, and the question of spontaneity on the other. And the question of spontaneity I find an easier one to deal with than the dualism.
(24:05) Donald Carveth: Yeah.
(24:07) Sean McGrath: With regard to the spontaneity, you know, there seems to me there’s two problems here. One is that we can repress our spontaneous self to such a degree that we become, you know, what Schelling calls a [German], a person of just empty understanding, a rationalist automaton. You know, someone with no life in them. And clearly psychoanalysis is dealing with that kind of illness all the time, we might call it a predominant form of neurosis. Someone who’s sort of cut off from their instinctive life, whether it’s their animal life or their moral life. Or even just their personal being in the world. That’s a certain kind of evil.
(24:47) Donald Carveth: Yeah.
(24:49) Sean McGrath: But there’s another kind of evil, of course, which is that one has so surrendered oneself to nature, you could say, that reflection, and moral discernment, and responsibility have become negated.
(25:01) Donald Carveth: Yeah.
(25:01) Sean McGrath: And this is the Deleuzean problematic, because Deleuze has such difficulties with reflection, that at the end of the day he just wants people to spontaneously produce themselves without any kind of moral discernment, and ultimately that leads to a denial of the distinction between good and evil, the distinction which you just quite clearly articulated in response to Jung. So I, for me, and my guide here is Schelling, who in a very famous passage says, there’s two kinds of madness. One madness is the madness that suppresses the spontaneous self by the understanding. And in that kind of person, there is no life. Nothing comes from them. They’re kind of a walking dead.
And there’s another kind of madness, of course, in which this spontaneous natural self has completely eclipsed consciousness and knowledge and culture. You know, some kind of psychosis. So there’s a kind of delicate balancing act required here, and I think that’s what we’re trying to get at.
(26:08) Donald Carveth: Yeah.
(26:09) Sean McGrath: And that’s where Jung is getting at quite articulately in this essay, in the best parts of his essay. But let’s talk about the bad parts of his essay.
(26:17) Donald Carveth: [chuckles] Yeah.
(26:18) Sean McGrath: For me, Jung is a complete theoretical mess. You know? This is why he’s so interesting. Because he’s just—he produces one insight after the other insight and they’re full of genius and possibility, but the thing never gets knitted together in any kind of satisfying way, and he’ll say one thing that one could develop, but then follow it up with something else, which completely confuses matters.
(26:45) Donald Carveth: Exactly, it’s exasperating to read for that very reason.
(26:48) Sean McGrath: Entirely confused. And with regard to this question that God—the dark side of God, and God has this shadow side and God is beyond God and evil, and he’s neither good nor evil, and so we end up with some kind of, I don’t know what to say, you know, some kind of monistic idea out of Asia, rather than the moral discernment between good and evil that you were discussing earlier. Those are two very different ideas. And they do not fit together in Jung’s world at all. So for example, if we follow the dark side of God theme, which many Jungians are very attached to, the logical consequence of that is that we should do whatever it is that we want to do. You know, we should be like Allistair Crowley—my will is the only law. Because I want it, it should be. And any kind of judgment about that is something to be abjured. There is no good and evil. There’s just really power and the expression of it. And I think a thinker like Deleuze, who is very influenced by Jung, he actually brought, he actually filled out that sentence, and brought it to its conclusion, where he says, actually, no, there’s neither good nor evil, there’s just power, and its expression, and its failed expressions. Kind of a Nietzchean, Spinozistic moralism.
But this Nietzchean Spinozistic amoralism is entirely at odds with the other element in Jung, which is this strong sense that there is a kind of moral responsibility, an ethical responsibility of the individual to develop their consciousness and to discern. For example, with regard to the archetypes—domination by an archetype is also the source of the worst things in all the world. That was Jung’s analysis of the National Socialist movement.
(28:36) Donald Carveth: Right.
(28:38) Sean McGrath: We’re not to surrender ourselves to the collective, the archetypal, the impersonal. On the contrary, we are to build a bridge to it, what Jung calls the transcendent function. So to maintain this kind of ego pole, which is in constant lifegiving dialogue with the impersonal archetypal dimension, neither surrendering to it nor repressing it.
(29:02) Donald Carveth: Right.
(29:03) Sean McGrath: And that for me is the moral, the ethical axis of Jung’s thought, and I think you’re right, it’s for me incompatible with this Asiatic monism which he tends to fall into when he tries to be a metaphysician, which is always a bad idea for Jung.
Donald Carveth. Yes. Yes. That’s helpful, yeah. I agree with everything you’ve just said there. But can I bring you back to his point about the Lord’s prayer? A God who leads us into temptation?
(29:36) Sean McGrath: Yeah, remind me of what he says on that?
(29:39) Donald Carveth: Well, he’s saying that we can’t just trust conscience as the vox Dei, the voice of God, because this is a God who can lead us into temptation.
(29:50) Jakob Lusensky: Let me just come in with actually quoting that. Because I think it could be really helpful, also for the listener. So this is the quote from the Jung paper, where he speaks about the Lord’s Prayer:
“But if the voice of conscience is the voice of God, this voice must possess an incomparably higher authority than traditional morality. Anyone, therefore, who allows conscience this status should, for better or worse, put his trust in divine guidance rather than give heed to conventional morality. Anyone, therefore, who allows conscience this status should, for better or worse, put his trust in divine guidance and follow his conscience rather than give heed to conventional morality. If the believer had absolute confidence in his definition of God as the Summum Bonum, it would be easy for him to obey the rule inner voice, for he could be sure of never being led astray. But since, in the Lord’s Prayer, we still beseech God not to lead us into temptation, this undermines the very trust the believer should have if, in the darkness of a conflict of duty, he is to obey the voice of conscience without regard to the ‘world’ and, very possibly, act against the precepts of the moral code by ‘obeying God rather than men.’”
(31:09) Sean McGrath: Yeah, lead us not into temptation. This is a God—well, Jung is right, that God, in the Lord’s Prayer, is identified as one who could lead us into temptation, or at least surrender us, leave us. I think the point of the Lord’s Prayer is that the only reason we are not led into temptation is because God protects us from such temptation. And should God withdraw that protective power, we will fall into temptation. I think that’s the point of the prayer, not that God leads us into temptation, but God preserves us from temptation, and should God for a moment withdraw his hand, we will fall into temptation. That I think is being said. With regard to a God who can let us fall into temptation, are we therefore to conclude that this is a God who is neither God nor evil but he needs to be transcended or something. So there’s stages of correction happening. So first you have Yaweh, who’s obviously capable of wrathful acts, violent acts and so on, a God of wrath. And then you have the Christian correction of this, which is to, in the mythic language, you know, to appease the wrathful God with the sacrifice of the good son. And then you have—but Jung is not happy to leave it there—he says now there’s a third correction required because of the one-sidedness to the Christian correction: namely that it has excluded the dark, rather than integrated it, and this third correction apparently is happening on the level of psychoanalysis.
So when I hear Jung speaking about Christianity, he seems always to be thinking of something that needs to be corrected and transcended psychoanalytically. Now on the one hand, I think that’s an interesting point, because we can’t just leave the tradition where it is. The tradition dies if it’s not constantly being appropriated, adapted, even expanded. And so I’m all on board with the idea that the psychological age needs to be an age of the church, in a certain way, and that the revelation, the religious tradition, of at least part of the world, has to be somehow critically appropriated and corrected in certain ways. Who wouldn’t agree with that? But where I have a difficulty is with the kind of correction that Jung thinks is required. Because there it becomes incoherent. There we suddenly say that actually we’re going to go back now, and we’re going to correct the Christian correction by integrating the dark side of God into the light
(33:48) Donald Carveth: [inaudible] The light—
(33:50) Sean McGrath: Yeah. And at that point the whole thing falls to pieces, because now we’ve even worse than Yaweh. We’re in something that’s pre-Yawehic, something that is really deeply undifferentiated—
(34:01) Don Carveth: Believe me, I know. I mean, I was a creature of the 1960s, which started out with peace and love and sweetness and non-violence, and wound up at the Altamont Festival with Hell’s Angels killing people while the Rolling Stones sang “Sympathy for the Devil.” And that youth counterculture got entirely into this “two faces of God,” including worship of the Dark Lord, and there are elements of this in Jung, which frankly really frighten me.
(34:32) Sean McGrath: Yes, and unfortunately, it’s my experience it’s what is most predominant in Jungian circles, where Jung’s psychology of religion is discussed. I rarely hear the criticism. I hear rather the repetition of this. Yeah, it’s entirely inadequate, so, what we’re getting at here—so one of the ways that I’ve dealt with this theoretically is to say, listen: Good and evil are not opposites. And that’s very New Testament. They’re not opposites. Good is not in conflict with evil. That’s the theology of George Lucas. That is not the theology of the New Testament.
Goodness is transcendent of evil. Evil is only permitted a space of time for the sake of some inscrutable ends that God has willed. And we’re told, in Revelation, in the end, Revelation 20, that evil will be entirely cast out and rendered nothing.
(35:25) Donald Carveth: The devil is always already defeated.
(35:29) Sean McGrath: Exactly. Or the light shines in the darkness and the darkness does not comprehend it. So we’re not talking about two countervailing powers here that have to be held in balance in the interest of some third. That is not the image of goodness. We’re talking about something quite different which is, you could say, more hierarchical. And that’s a bad word today, but nevertheless. The good is infinitely, qualitatively, transcendent of anything that we might call evil. And whatever is evil only is insofar as it’s permitted a space of operation, for whatever reason, and reasons that we can’t comprehend. And that’s what I hear Christ saying in the Lord’s Prayer, when he says, “Lead us not into temptation,” he’s saying temptation, the devil, the dark that we deal with, the sin that we are so vulnerable to, all of this really is something that God could wipe away in an instant, but he has not, for reasons that we do not comprehend. And so we are therefore vulnerable, and we need to depend entirely on the mercy of God to protect us from this. It’s not a question of a duality here at all. It’s a question of absolute dependence, to quote Schleiermacher.
(36:52) Jakob Lusensky: But Sean, on a theoretical level this all makes sense to me. But as we also know, Jung was not a theologian. He was foremost a clinician. He was foremost developing his theory out of his experience with himself and his patients. And good and evil, you say, is not in conflict. I agree theoretically.
(37:13) Sean McGrath: No, I didn’t say they’re not in conflict. That’s not what I said. I said that they’re not counter poles. They’re not opposing forces.
(37:20) Jakob Lusensky: They’re not opposing forces. But in man, they are.
(37:23) Sean McGrath: Yes.
(37:24) Jakob Lusensky: And that’s what Jung is speaking of. I see. He doesn’t try to develop a theology here. He’s speaking of, in the human nature, they absolutely are in opposition and conflict all the time. And in the story of Job, God sends the devil to tempt Job. God is the man behind the temptation in that story. And Goethe also says, “sometimes God sends the devil.” But we have to see how we should work with that devilish element in us. You said, Don, in our last conversation, we cannot sort of get away with the superego. We need to have it working for us. The devil needs to cut the grapes.
(38:10) Donald Carveth: Yes.
(38:12) Jakob Lusensky: Referring to Luther.
(38:13) Donald Carveth: So I’ll leave it to Sean to address that part of it, God sending the devil to tempt Job. But let me just say that in terms of the battle between good impulses and evil impulses in human nature, here is where I think we need the Freudian concept of the Id. Because it’s pretty clear to me that we can trust out conscience. We have to distinguish it from the superego. We have to distinguish the voice of conscience from all of these other voices. But the voice of conscience is the vox Dei. It’s guided by the principle of love. It can be trusted. It is quite distinct from other Id contents that can be absolutely destructive and demonic.
(39:03) Sean McGrath: And as you said earlier, the discernment of spirits here is a work of consciousness.
(39:08) Donald Carveth: Yes.
(39:09) Sean McGrath: Yes. That’s crucial.
(39:12) Jakob Lusenky: And I think Jung would agree with this. And I think the dualism of Jung speaks about the duality in the human heart, and the struggle on a human level, not—he doesn’t form a theology out of this. If it is one it’s—
(39:25) Sean McGrath: And this is where, Jakob, I’m completely sensitive to the idea that Jung wants to speak as a clinician. And if he only spoke as a clinician I’d be all on board. He’s constantly transgressing this limitation. And he loves to play amateur theologian. He even loves to play amateur metaphysician, with the psychoid, the objective psyche and this kind of stuff. So I’ve just never, I’ve never taken it seriously, that Jungian psychology has obeyed these strict boundaries between clinical work and more theoretical speculative work, whether it’s the theology or the philosophy. I just don’t believe it. I don’t believe it in Freud and I don’t believe it in Jung.
Which is why I think Don’s work is so important. He’s kind of saying, listen, we’re already transgressing these boundaries. We’re already in the domain of the ethical. We can’t pretend that we aren’t.
(40:15) Jakob Lusensky: I am the Jungian in the room, so I agree with you, Sean, that Jung is going between positions. But my point is that I think he speaks about the human heart and the struggle that people have, and that’s a very dualistic struggle at times.
(40:27) Sean McGrath: I agree. But if Jung is happily transgressing the boundaries, why doesn’t he invite the others in? Now he does on occasion, you know, Victor White was invited in. But generally speaking there’s a lot of hesitation and even kind of naïve critique of the theological or philosophical voice in Jungian circles, you know? They’re speaking—even someone who is as speculatively adept as Giegerich has this kind of epoché, you know? I remember once asking Giegerich, you know, shouldn’t we talk about metaphysics? And do you know what he said to me? He said, “That’s a temptation.” He said we cannot go there. So absolute psychology so fills the space that there is no room for any other voice. There’s no plurality there. There’s no voice, there’s no room for the theological voice, or the philosophical voice, coming from whatever tradition. And consequently what happens is kind of amateur theology tends to kind of colonize the space. And we have all these confusions perpetuated.
(41:31) Jakob Lusensky: I can agree with that there’s a lot of confusion within the Jungian field and discourse, and I wouldn’t protect the Jungians. But I would also say that it’s interesting, no, that we’re discussing this paper that Jung wrote, one of his last papers, in 1958, “The Psychology of Conscience,” and we all get so many insights from it.
(41:50) Donald Carveth: It’s a magnificent paper. The Freudian tradition never got there, to this distinction that he sees very clearly, in certain aspects. I have a problem with your mentioning the concept of the heart earlier. Like the division, the conflict within the heart of man, kind of thing. I have trouble with that because I think the heart is closely allied with the conscience. And I think that the demonic does not come from the heart. It comes from other aspects of our nature.
(42:23) Jakob Lusensky: But it’s got [inaudible] in the heart.
(42:23) Donald Carveth: The heart is pretty reliable.
(42:25) Jakob Lusensky: But I think it comes into the heart that that’s the part of the work. When you’re in sin, I mean, it goes to the heart of man.
(42:34) Sean McGrath: That’s actually Christ’s—Jesus does that himself, right? So the heart is a metaphor. I love the metaphor. But as a metaphor, it’s got a lack of precision, right? So we’re speaking about the—when we say the heart, we mean what? The core, the innermost, right? The ground, if you like.
(42:51) Donald Carveth: Well I see it as the seat of love. The heart is the seat of love. And therefore it is not the seat of evil.
(43:00) Sean McGrath: But wouldn’t you say, Don, that evil is—only one with a heart is capable of evil?
(43:08) Donald Carveth: Yes.
(43:09) Sean McGrath: So in a certain way, you could say that out of the heart spring all evil thoughts, which is a paraphrase of what Jesus himself says. Not that the heart is evil. But only one with a heart can so misuse themselves as to be productive of evil.
(43:29) Donald Carveth: Well that I would agree with. But that’s not saying that the evil comes from the heart. That’s only saying that only someone with a heart could be drawn into evil.
(43:42) Sean McGrath: Yeah, that’s—so, that’s why I find the heart a rather imprecise way to speak. I would prefer to speak about the ground or the core of freedom out of which personality grows. There’s a certain kind of perversion that only human persons are capable of.
(44:05): Donald Carveth: Yes.
(44:06) Sean McGrath: And this is why I think it’s a mistake to speak about goodness and evil in the non-human world. In a certain way we admire plants and animals and the universe precisely because it is so confirmed in its being, but there’s a kind of vacillation at the core of the human being. We don’t have to say it’s the heart, if you don’t like. But at the ground of the human being there’s this vacillation. And Schelling says, you know, that out of the ground emerges a decision, a decision for good or for evil. What Schelling means by that is not that we choose—he says decision. Entscheidung. We actually divide at this point. IT’s not as though we choose preexisting possibilities. You know, Jakob chooses his good Jakob over evil Jakob. Rather that in the decision, personal ground produces something that has never been before. And it’s either a form of evil that was never before, or it’s a form of goodness that was never before. But in any case it’s produced out of this ground of freedom.
(45:16) Donald Carveth: Yes, yes. Out of the ground of freedom for sure. This is why I love my dog. My dog is incapable of evil.
(45:22) Sean McGrath: Exactly. But I hate to say it, Don. But it also means that the dog’s incapable of good.
(45:29) Donald Carveth: Oh, absolutely. That’s true too.
(45:31) Sean McGrath: So we misuse the term when we go, “good dog.”
(45:34) Donald Carveth: [laughing] That’s true.
(45:46) Jakob Lusensky: Sean, I just want to hear if you have any comments about the temptation, you know, the—
(45:50) Sean McGrath: Yeah, God sending the devil. Well, that’s exactly true, that God sends the devil. That’s exactly true, we certainly know that’s biblical, that’s New Testament.
(45:58) Jakob Lusensky: But in the Lord’s Prayer you had an issue with that.
(46:02) Sean McGrath: No, I didn’t. I was actually speaking precisely. If the devil’s on the scene, it’s only because God has allowed the devil to be on the scene. So that’s the terrible insecurity, the situation of insecurity in which we stand. We do not command this terrain. We’re not the master of this house, if you want to speak in the Freudian phrase. So that means there’s a kind of dependency on the mercy of God, to protect us from these things. And the truth is that we shall be protected. The whole story of Christ is, here’s the best man who ever lived, if you want, or the logos incarnate, more accurately, and he is constantly subject to the power of the devil. If you take his first appearance to be at the baptism at the Jordan, as he appears in Mark, without the infancy narratives, which are very likely, well they are constructed, they’re constructed after the fact. I think Jesus enters history as a thirty-year-old man being baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan. What happens immediately afterwards? At this moment of initiation, where he is actually being called the Son of God, he is led into the desert where the devil has his way with him. Or at least tries to have his way with him. And he withstands that, and then the devil departs until the appointed hour, which is the moment of his greatest trial, which is the passion. The point being that this, the best man, is not the man who is never subject, or is never tormented by evil, but the one who is constantly, constantly subject to the power of evil, and nevertheless holds fast, or is held fast.
(47:56) Jakob Lusensky: A question that I’m sitting with is the question of conscience in the analytical space. You, Don, with your theoretical work, have done a great service and Sagan as well and others, in dealing and working on with these matters, and showing the importance of differentiating, for example, between the superego and the conscience. Then we have this comment from you, Sean, about, that Jungians are sort of, as a whole, a little bit immoral, or there’s no ethical compass. I wanted to hear about you, Don, first. What you think about this. Is psychoanalytic practice today a practice without conscience? Or is it actually there? But we just don’t talk about it in these terms, you know? We do help people to maybe love better and transcend some part of their narcissism and see the other. They might not call themselves Christians, but as you said before, you say, you speak about psychoanalysis as your conversation experience.
(48:59) Donald Carveth: Well, I think conscience to sum extent is built into standard psychoanalytic practice. But, Freud lied about it and Freudians have been lying about it ever since. I mean, they hide it behind this medical façade, they talk about mental health. Rather than try to convert people from badness to goodness, they won’t admit what they’re doing. But nevertheless, the value system is there. They could do so much better if they raised it to consciousness. If they got honest about what it is they are about, they could do it much better. They’re embarrassed about the ethical nature of their practice. There’s also, I mean they’re not going to get paid in Ontario by OHIP for trying to turn people from badness to goodness. Or even from narcissism to object love, which is the way Freud put it in 1914 when he momentarily slipped up and forgot his disguise. He stopped talking that way and it shifted to the language of mental health. So it’s there in the tradition, but the tradition has really suffered from not being fully conscious, not being fully honest about itself, major failures of conscience, unconscientious elements within the psychoanalytic tradition, which I think might have been avoided if we had been able to be honest about the ethic that undergirds the whole enterprise.
Just on the question of working in the clinical room, much of my work follows the line, the example that Jung gave us. My patients are doing all kinds of immoral and unethical things, and they’re lying to themselves, but they produce dreams in which their hands are dirty. Or they’re doing things like stealing and cheating. And I’m not going to be super-egoish and reproach them for this. But I am going to be alert to what do they do with the dirty money? Mostly, they lose it. Or they get it stolen from them. Or they get hit by a car. Or they develop migraine headaches. And I am always pointing out, look what happens whenever you cheat on your wife. You get the headaches. Or you get that rash all over your body. Whatever. So I’m confronting them with the consequences of their actions. Thus trying to lead them to face the fact that they have a conscience, and they have a superego. They’re busy blocking both superego and conscience. That’s how I work.
(51:52) Sean McGrath: Well there’s so much on the table here. I don’t know where to begin. So I’m going to start with the first thing that I remember and bring it back to the very interesting thing that Don just said. So first thing that you said, Jakob, was that Jungians are immoral, that I—actually, I can’t think of a single Jungian I met that I would call immoral. On the contrary. I think that they just don’t understand the ethical thrust of their practice and they’re misnaming it, and that Jung has not helped them with his monistic idea of a good–evil God. That was my claim. Not that they’re immoral but that their theory is inadequate to the ethical thrust of what they’re doing, which is more or less what I think Don is saying about the Freudian tradition.
(52:34) Donald Carveth: Yeah.
(52:36) Sean McGrath: And with regard to the church, you know, what does church mean? There are two words in the tradition. Ecclesia, and circe. Ecclesia is the one I’d like to best, because ecclesia really just means a gathering of concerned citizens. So it’s a gathering of people, and in the New Testament context it means those people who have gathered around the Christ. And if we wanted to secularize this, which I think we should, because as I’ve said many times before, Christianity is self-secularizing. It’s the gathering of those called to love. It’s the community of those called to love. That’s the church. So what if it happens in your consulting room, in their cathedral down the road from me, that is of no moment, really. Wherever it’s happening, the church is active, and I’m convinced that the church is alive and well wherever it’s regarded in this much bigger sense, this ontological sense. And stop identifying it, like certain transitory institutions which are passing away, which weren’t always part of it, and which won’t always be part of it.
But what I wanted to come back to, though, is this embarrassment about the ethical. I thought this was so interesting, Don. So, you use the word lie multiple times. They’re lying about what they’re doing. They’re promoting health. I immediately thought of the etymological relationship between the word health and whole and holy. There’s a kind of reductionistic refusal of that etymological and I think ontological relationship between health, holiness, wholeness. And it occurred to me at I heard you speak that I can well imagine many situations in which the right things to do is to lie, but I can’t imagine a single situation in which the right thing to do is to lie to yourself.
(54:34) Donald Carveth: Mm-hmmm.
(54:41) Sean McGrath: It seems to me there we have the thing that cannot be forgiven. Not because there’s judgmental God who’s punishing us for us, but because we put ourselves into a place in which we cannot possibly—
(54:50) Donald Carveth: Well and here’s the thing of the psychoanalytical tradition opposing self-deception, while ongoingly deceiving itself.
(54:58) Sean McGrath: Yeah, and what I wanted to ask you is, what do you think the root of that embarrassment is? It’s obviously not an accidental thing. It’s kind of a structural feature of the Freudian tradition, I think.
(55:10) Donald Carveth: Well, I mean, I think it has to do with the enlightenment, enlightenment rationalism and materialism, and so many—Freud himself—and so many people are steeped in their respect for and their identification with enlightenment rationalism and science, and they can’t bear to see themselves as people who are committed to love, and to kindness over cruelty, and they see this as sentimental, and non-rational, non-scientific. And they find it all very embarrassing.
(55:54) Sean McGrath: Yeah, I would have thought—my own take on Freud and, to a lesser degree on Jung, is that there is this attachment to what in philosophy we call the positivist tradition.
(56:05) Donald Carveth: Yeah, positivism.
(56:06) Sean McGrath: Yeah, what’s real is a thing that can be measured in space and time, that’s localizable. There’s an interesting passage in the Interpretation of Dreams, where Jung—where Freud says, the psyche has its own laws and it should be understood on its own terms and not explained in terms of something else.
(56:22) Donald Carveth: Yeah.
(56:23) Sean McGrath: But then he adds, and with time we’ll find out that those are the same laws that pertain to physical things. Right?
(56:30) Donald Carveth: Ultimately mind will be reduced to brain
(56:33) Sean McGrath: That’s right
(56:34) Donald Carveth: And so many of my colleagues have lost touch with psychoanalysis altogether. They’re into what they’re calling neuro-psychoanalysis. And it’s all about the brain and it’s a total waste of time. Not for brain scientists, but for psychoanalysts it’s a waste of time.
(56:49) Sean McGrath: Oh it’s—we’re in a far more deeply positivistic age than Freud was in 1900 when he wrote the Interpretation of Dream.
Donald Carveth: Right.
Sean McGrath: And neuroscience has—it’s just dominating our understanding of ourselves. What gets me is how—there’s a kind of paradox there—people seem to be—here’s the difference. Back in the end of the nineteenth century—when positivism 1.0—was destroying our cultural institutions and our ethics. People were horrified. You know, think of the characters in Dostoyevsky’s novels, who carry the positivism all the way through and go and butcher their landlady or something. There was this horror that it’s all just actually meaningless matter in motion. But now, when we have this seemingly more sophisticated scientific demonstration that it’s all just meaningless matter in motion, we’re all relieved, we’re all delighted. It’s like, you know, we’ve found the God molecule. We’ve found the little part of your brain that if I tickle it with electricity, it’ll cause you to feel oceanic bliss. You know? And people are relieved by this, they’re happy about it. I don’t understand it.
(58:02) Donald Carveth: Well, I guess one—it saves us from freedom. It saves us from guilt. It saves us from humanity.
(58:16) Sean McGrath: I think we’re in a deep, deep dark positivist age. I think this is why psychoanalysis has become so out of mode. You know? When I talk to philosophers of mind, they can’t believe that I have anything to do with something as wrong as psychoanalysis.
(58:34) Donald Carveth: Uh-ha. Well, because you’re also involved in something as wrong as Christianity. It’s odd. People don’t understand that it was psychoanalysis that brought me back to Christianity. So, you know, psychoanalysis is profoundly involved with the soul. Maybe I should forgive my medical colleagues and let them—leave them alone and let them continue to hide behind their medical disguise. Because they’re doing soul work. And maybe it’s—maybe they need a shield in this age of positivism.
(59:08) Sean McGrath: Yeah, or just, yeah, let them have their provisional names.
(59:12) Donald Carveth: Yes.
(59:15) Sean McGrath: Yeah. (Silence.) I do think that something is coming, and it’s going to be neither the Christianity that we are familiar with, nor the psychoanalysis that we have more or less worked through to the end. Neither of these things are finished. So, in that regard, I do, I very much like Jung when he plays his prophetic note, and he looks towards this future integration or this new stage of whatever it is that’s working its way through time in at least the European tradition. I think that’s the proper attitude. These things are not dead but they’re actually changing into something new.
(59:54) Jakob Lusensky: I think there’s something prophetic in Jung, but I also think there is something very reformative. I mean, the way I understand Jung is he could have been the greatest of reformers of Christianity if he would have taken a stand. If he wouldn’t have hidden behind his persona as a psychiatrist. It’s also something in Jung, I mean, he’s envisioning the future, he’s prophetic, but he’s always rooted in tradition.
(1:00:20) Sean McGrath: What would it mean, Jakob, for him to take a stand?
(1:00:26) Jakob Lusensky: A stand would I guess mean first of all that he would have to kiss, to kneel and kiss the floor. He never did that. He was, until then, as I understand it, ambivalent. In some sort of opposition, so therefore that wasn’t his life, but, you know, his theories are alive and we can work with them. And we can, you know, do what we’re doing here on our small turf. And what you’ve done, and which holds a great future as we live on, Don, with your work, I mean just bringing consciousness. I’m sorry. Bringing conscience back into psychoanalysis and into Jungian psychoanalysis.
(1:01:02) Sean McGrath: I wonder about religion. You say he should have kissed the floor. Are you saying we want a religious psychoanalysis? I imagine Don’s isn’t quite ready to go there.
(1:01:11) Jakob Lusensky: No. No, no! I think we should see that psychoanalysis is, as Jung [says] in his latest paper, it’s spirituality. It’s bringing us back to seeing life as it is. You know? It takes away the blindfolds. I’m not saying that we should develop a Christina psychoanalysis, but done right, it can help us to see the truth.
(1:01:33) Donald Carveth: Yea, it’s a spiritual practice, I believe, and always has been, but in disguise.
(1:01:39) Sean McGrath: What does it mean exactly to say that it’s a spiritual practice?
(1:01:43) Donald Carveth: Well, I think, first of all, I think psychoanalytic practice is a form of meditation. Everyone is so preoccupied with mindfulness mediation. I think that psychoanalysis is a type of that that goes on towards what I call heartfulness meditation. The patient is free-associating and the analyst is enjoined to have freely hovering attention. So both the patient and I are sitting there in a meditative state, and we’re watching what comes up in the dialogue and what comes up in the dreams. So the whole thing seems to me to be a daily meditative practice. For patients who are on the couch maybe four, five days a week, it’s a deep meditation, among other things. And to the extent that it clarifies conscience and distinguishes it from superego. And helps the patient sort out these voices in his head, and helps him—oh that last question you mentioned in your list, Jakob. Murray Stein is talking about how we not only have responsibilities to others but we have responsibilities to the self. I think of Winnicott’s true self. I think true self is often ignored and abandoned, and I think a conscientious person owes others but also owes his true self. And terrible conflicts, obviously would emerge. Sometimes to do justice to my true self, I may have to break a covenant with another. So this is just a lifelong ethical struggle. I think conscience is linked to the true self and I think creativity is linked to the true self. So I think in analysis we’re trying to help people make contact with their true selves by helping them make contact with their emotions. And their dreams. And we’re trying to bring them clo[ser]—I think that psychoanalysis involves self-realization and self-actualization. And the end result is a more conscientious person. So I think this is a spiritual practice.