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‘Such Things Seduce Us’
The Function of Dreams by Carl G. Jung, in the Context of Heroic Fantasy and Postmodern Aggression

Pages 27-40 of Man and His Symbols, 1964, Aldus Books, London

Having establishing that dream is the origin for most human symbology, in his previous essay, Jung goes on to explore the reasons for our submerged, instinctual self to communicate with us through symbolic dreams. A key aspect of his theory is that dreams are more vivid and picturesque than our waking thoughts, because our subconscious is essentially conducting an autonomous resistance movement on our behalf against the greater society that depresses, warps, distorts and corrupts our natural, healthy being.

In large part, he argues, society forces the civilized person to discard their fantasies, their sense of wonder and their inner yearnings in order to conform to the waking order. Hence, the subconscious—which, in the primitive human helps him deal with things beyond his understanding, bringing him to people his night-shrouded world with demons, spirits and gods—comes to the subliminal rescue of our tormented, consciousness, lived under the constant many-varied threat of our artificial and inhuman waking life.

In terms of heroic fiction, and in particular of an inspired genius of fantasy like Robert E. Howard—who essentially claimed in his unpublished story, Thunder-Rider, that a modern man’s fantasies are racial memories upwelling through the subconscious—we see both the cause of rampant fantasy, rooted as it is in an unnatural “civilized” life, exemplified by Howard, as well as the therapeutic use of such mythic fiction to ease the pains of our waking day.

Jung has helped me immensely with the pursuit of Howard’s internal inspiration through his works, with the unpublished works always having a richer subtext and a stronger rejection of civilization’s mechanized dehumanization process, than what was accepted for publication by his editors.

Below Jung contrasts primitive and civilized man, in the opposite fashion that Howard would have:

“A primitive man confronted by a shock of this kind would not doubt his sanity; he would think of fetishes, spirits or gods… Yet the emotions that affect us are just the same. In fact, the terrors that stem from our elaborate civilization may be far more threatening than those that primitive people attribute to demons…In our conscious life we are exposed to all kinds of influences. Other people stimulate or depress us, events at the office or in our social life distract us. Such things seduce us into following ways that are unsuitable to our individuality…The more the consciousness is influenced by prejudices, errors, fantasies and infantile wishes, the more the already existing gap [between the conscious and the subconscious] will widen into neurotic disassociation and lead to a more or less artificial life far removed from healthy instincts, nature and truth.”

Jung goes on to discuss the significance of reoccurring dreams and begins a dream typology discussion.

As for the point above, in the context of masculinity, myth and race—heroism writ small—consider the many scenes in various Howard stories where the barbarian or wilderness-bred hero goes with his instincts in regards to some evil or peril, where his civilized companions vacillate and die.

In my own work interviewing people targeted for aggression and those who target them, I have noticed that the choice prey is always the prejudiced, mainstream person, either liberal or conservative or criminal—criminality now, in the Hip Hop Era, regarded as an understandable and even accepted mainstream activity, if not an explicit good. Despite all signs to the contrary, the liberal will look at five unemployed black youth surrounding him and latch onto his ingrained prejudice that blacks are no more violent than whites and will therefore be easily taken. Likewise, the conservative in the same situation will fight or shot or use his car a s a weapon of defense and even call the police, believing that society is just and that since he acted morally he will not be punished. He is then persecuted by the greater society for attacking innocent, unarmed youths. The black youth, immersed in this lifestyle and constantly latching on to male bonding opportunities, almost always finds himself targeted for violence successfully by his fellows.

The only people in the urban crime matrix that do well dealing with aggression and come away satisfied with the outcome, are loner black and Latino criminals and alienated poor whites, all of whom look at society as existing for the benefit of others and rely on instinct and racial identity as operating principals.

Jung’s theories and Howard’s fantasies, composed in the previous age, dovetail perfectly into the current foundering social construct. If Howard and H.P. Lovecraft could be raised from the dead to rehash their “civilization versus barbarism” debate in today’s decaying civilization, I would elect Jung as the moderator.

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